A US general warned the Taliban not to stay out of Kabul or be bombed

Taleban Leaders
 

A US general warned the Taliban not to stay out of Kabul or be bombed. In any case, the Taliban penetrated Kabul.

The senators are expected to question Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the head of Central Command, about the withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Taliban fighters line up to display their weapons as they control access to Abe Gate and make Afghans with travel documents wait in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 25, 2021.

  In the final days of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, a senior U.S. general met Taliban leaders in Qatar and warned them to keep their troops out of Kabul for a few more days or face the threat of U.S. airstrikes.

McKenzie, the head of U.S. Command, told Baradar that Taliban fighters must stay out of the circle of the United States that will strike them. McKenzie made it clear that the United States would finish its withdrawal as soon as possible and the Taliban should not interfere, three senior defense officials told NBC News.

Taliban representatives agreed not to intervene but indicated that they already had fighters within the circle in some places and that those fighters would not leave.

McKenzie explained that his mission is the safe withdrawal of Americans and allies. Taliban leaders agreed to let the Americans leave and offered to provide a liaison officer for security around the airport.

The next day, Taliban fighters entered Kabul, and no U.S. warplanes bombed the insurgents, the three senior defense officials said.

The episode illustrates the confusion and danger that marked the end of the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, as Biden administration officials and U.S. leaders struggle to deal with the rapid collapse of the Afghan government. But before events spiraled out of control, White House and State Department officials were not interested in hearing about the military's plan for a possible evacuation of vulnerable Afghan allies, according to the three top defense officials. Two other senior administrative officials opposed it.

How the administration and the U.S. military will manage the withdrawal will focus on a high-stakes congressional hearing on Tuesday, when Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley and McKenzie appear before the Senate Armed Services. Commission for the first time since the exit of America from Afghanistan.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have criticized the Biden administration over the chaotic withdrawal and pledged full accountability.

In Tuesday's hearing, senators are expected to question military leaders about intelligence reports before the U.S. withdrawal, why Bagram Airport was closed in July before the evacuation began, and what happened. An error in the August 29 U.S. drone strike that killed an aid worker was mistakenly identified as linked to the Islamic State.

But Austin and the top military officers who appear with him will likely be reluctant to discuss intelligence at a public hearing or share advice they gave the president on troop levels or other issues.

Lawmakers are also focusing on why the evacuation of U.S. citizens and Afghan allies did not begin much earlier and what role the military, the State Department, and other agencies played in contingency planning.

 The U.S. is ready to conduct an airlift if ordered and if a list of names is provided. Still, White House and State Department officials believe talk of an evacuation would undermine confidence in the Afghan government and potentially lead to a mass exodus of panic.

"They thought the evacuation would destabilize the [President Ashraf Ghani] government, but it was already unstable," said one of the senior defense officials.

The White House prepared for a possible worst-case scenario after U.S. forces left in August and that mass evacuation would not be necessary. According to senior defense officials, congressional aides, and refugee advocates, they were informed by management.

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