Shepparton News

Afghan war ‘strategic failure’

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WASHINGTON: The top US military officer has called the 20-year war in Afghanista­n a ‘‘strategic failure’’ and acknowledg­ed to Congress he had favoured keeping several thousand troops in the country to prevent a collapse of the US supported Kabul Government and a rapid takeover by the Taliban.

Republican­s on the Senate armed services committee pointed to the testimony by General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as evidence that President Joe Biden had been untruthful when he suggested last month the military had not urged him to keep troops in Afghanista­n.

Milley refused to say what advice he gave Biden last spring when Biden was considerin­g whether to comply with an agreement the Trump administra­tion had made with the Taliban to reduce the American troop presence to zero by May 2021, ending a US war that began in October 2001.

Testifying alongside Milley, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin also refused to reveal his advice to Biden.

Milley said, when pressed, that it had been his personal opinion that at least 2500 US troops were needed to guard against a collapse of the Kabul Government and a return to Taliban rule.

The Afghan Government and its US-trained army collapsed in midAugust, allowing the Taliban, which had ruled the country from 1996 to 2001, to capture Kabul without a shot being fired.

That triggered a frantic US effort to pull out American civilians, Afghan allies and others from Kabul airport.

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