Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said at a recent congressional hearing that he has “no regrets” about the deadly U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan, which saw 13 service members killed in a suicide bombing.
He was responding to a question from Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN), who pointed out that the top commander in the region at the time, now-retired Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, has expressed regrets about the operation.
“Do you have regrets about the withdrawal – or how the withdrawal occurred – from Afghanistan that cost the lives of 13 of our service members?” Banks said.
“I don’t have any regrets,” Austin responded.
During the Afghanistan withdrawal in August 2021, a terrorist with the group ISIS-K detonated a suicide bomb outside the airport in Kabul, killing 13 U.S. troops and at least 170 Afghans.
A retaliatory drone strike the next day killed an ISIS-K planner, while a second strike – the last of the 20-year war in Afghanistan – killed seven children and three other civilians. Austin later admitted the target of the second strike had been “completely harmless” and described the operation as “tragic,” as reported by the New York Times.
Calling the withdrawal “botched, deadly and embarrassing” at the hearing, Banks referenced the fact that McKenzie, who oversaw the region as head of U.S. Central Command, has repeatedly said he wished the withdrawal went differently.
Ahead of his retirement, McKenzie said in March that the immediate Taliban takeover of the Afghan government “was not the result we desired,” adding that he would deeply regret the loss of U.S. troops “for the rest of my life,” as reported by the Daily Mail.
He also said he was proud that more than 120,000 Afghans were able to be evacuated, but has previously stated that the chaos of the process “haunts me to this day,” as reported by NPR.