In a now-viral video, an active-duty U.S. Marine Corps lieutenant colonel called out senior military leadership for their handling of the U.S. withdrawal and evacuation operations from Afghanistan on the day that 13 U.S. service members were killed in an attack on the Kabul airport.
Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller, in a video he shared to his personal LinkedIn page, said he was willing to risk his own military career to demand accountability from military leadership after the attack on the Kabul airport.
“I’ve been in the Marine infantry for 17 years,” Scheller said near the start of his video.
Scheller said he served with some of the same Marines now tasked with protecting the Kabul airport, including one of the service members that was killed on Thursday. “I know through my inside channels that one of those people that were killed was someone that I have a personal relationship with.”
“I’m not making this video because it’s potentially an emotional time. I’m making it because I have a growing discontent and contempt for my perceived ineptitude at the foreign policy level and I want to specifically ask questions to some of my senior leaders,” Scheller said.
Scheller also acknowledged the personal risks he is willing to take to demand accountability from senior military leaders.
“I’ll say, as a person that’s not at 20 years,” Scheller said, referring to the time required in U.S. military service to receive full retirement benefits, “I feel like I have a lot to lose. . . I’ve thought through if I posted this video, what might happen to me . . . but I think what you believe in can only be defined by what you’re willing to risk. So if I’m willing to risk my current battalion commander seat, my retirement, my family’s stability to say some of the things that I want to say. I think it gives me some moral high ground to demand the same honesty, integrity and accountability from my senior leaders.”
Scheller said his fellow service members aren’t upset at those Marines who have served on the front lines throughout the 20-year war in Afghanistan. “That service members has always rose to the occasion and done extraordinary things.”
Instead, Scheller said, “People are upset because their senior leaders let them down and none of them are raising their hands and accepting accountability and saying ‘we messed this up.'”
Scheller said someone in his position could be fired for a simplest live-fire incident or “EO complaint,” but “we have a secretary of defense who testified to Congress in May that the Afghan National Security Force will withstand the Taliban advance.”
In addition to criticizing U.S. military leadership for overestimating the Afghan military, Scheller also criticized the way in which withdrawal operations were handled.
“I’m not saying we’ve got to be in Afghanistan forever, but I am saying, Did any of you throw your rank on the table and say ‘hey, it’s a bad idea to evacuate Bagram Airfield, a strategic airbase, before we evacuate everyone?” Scheller added. “Did anyone do that? And when you didn’t think to do that, did anyone raise their hand and say ‘we completely messed this up?’”
For those questioning whether the military mission in Afghanistan has been “in vain,” Scheller said, “Potentially all of those people died in vain if we don’t have senior military leaders who own up and raise their hand and say, ‘We did not do this well in the end.’ Without that, we just keep repeating the same mistakes. This amalgamation of economic/corporate/political/higher military ranks are not keeping holding up their end of the bargain.”
Scheller concluded his four-and-a-half-minute video by saying, “I want to say this very strongly. I have been fighting for 17 years. I am willing to throw it all away to say to my senior leaders, ‘I demand accountability.'”