Senate Republicans Seek Top Pentagon Leaders' Testimony, More Information on Afghanistan

A group of U.S. Senate Republicans want more information, including testimony from top Pentagon officials, as they try to piece together what led to the chaotic withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan—citing the need for "transparency, candor and a dedication to ascertaining the facts without regard to politics."

"We owe it to our nation, those who served, their families and our allies and partners who fought alongside us, to preserve the records of how our fight in Afghanistan concluded," the group, led by Senator Tommy Tuberville of Alabama, wrote in a letter Wednesday to Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, who chairs the Senate Armed Forces Committee. "The insights we gather will help prevent future loss of American blood and treasure, a solemn responsibility and sacred trust we believe all members of our committee will seek to uphold."

Reed's office didn't immediately respond to Newsweek's request for comment on the letter.

Tuberville—joined by Republican Senators Roger Wicker of Mississippi, Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Dan Sullivan of Alaska, Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, Rick Scott of Florida, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Josh Hawley of Missouri—specifically requested sworn testimony from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Mark Milley, U.S. Central Command head General Frank McKenzie and General A. Scott Miller, who oversaw the war effort for nearly three years before stepping down from the command post in July as the war neared its end.

The Pentagon responded to Newsweek with an email noting that Austin is currently traveling in the Middle East but not directly responding to the senators' request for testimony. Austin held meetings in Kuwait on Wednesday.

President Joe Biden and his administration, including the top military officials, have defended the decision to end the longest war in American history ahead of the 20th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks that prompted it.

During a somber press briefing last week, Austin told reporters that the military would review the war's end and learn from it.

"There's never been a single operation that I've been involved in where we didn't discover that there's something that we could have done better or more efficiently or more effectively," he said.

In addition to testimony from Pentagon leaders, the Republican senators are seeking open and closed hearings on Afghanistan and urging Congress to press the Department of Defense to preserve all records related to the drawdown of the war.

In the days since the Taliban toppled the Afghan government that forced emergency evacuations of thousands of Americans and Afghan allies, several Democrats have pressed for a more comprehensive review of the entire two-decade war, rather than focus on its end.

Last week, 26 Senate Republicans penned a letter to the White House asking for responses to a series of questions about the Americans and allies who had been unable to evacuate before U.S. forces left.

"The signatories of this letter may have differing opinions about whether the United States should have maintained a military presence in Afghanistan, but we all agree that the arbitrary and poorly-planned method by which you withdrew from Afghanistan caused this crisis," the senators wrote, seeking information by Tuesday this week.

A spokesperson for Tuberville, who was among the senators who signed onto that letter as well, told Newsweek they had not received a response from the White House as of Wednesday afternoon.

Senate Republicans want Austin, Milley Afghanistan testimony
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III and Army General Mark Milley (R), Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, hold a press briefing about the US military drawdown in Afghanistan, at the Pentagon in Washington, DC September 1, 2021. SAUL LOEB / AFP/Getty Images

Read the full letter here.