The SecDef Lloyd Austin and CJCS Mark Milley Afghanistan Press Conference Had the Qualities of a James Bond Martini

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Today we got to take Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s face from off of milk cartons as he shared the stage with Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley.

There wasn’t a lot of news to be made. The reporters were fairly obsequious and sycophantic, not at all what you’d expect of a free press in a free country where the trillion-dollar Defense establishment had been knocked on its backside by a bunch of semi-literate goat herds. Nevertheless, there were some interesting items. Here is General Milley barely containing his white rage when discussing the “rapid collapse” of the Afghan security forces and government. The video is cued up for your convenience.

Let me make one comment on the intelligence, because I’m seeing all over the news that there was a warning of a rapid collapse.

I have previously said from this podium and in sworn testimony before Congress that the intelligence clearly indicated that multiple scenarios were possible. One of those was an outright Taliban takeover following a rapid collapse of the Afghan security forces and the government. Another was civil war. And a third was a negotiated settlement. However, the timeframe for “rapid collapse,” that was widely estimated and ranged from weeks to months and even years following our departure.

There was nothing that I or anyone else saw that indicated a collapse of this army and this government in eleven days.

The sad part is that I actually believe him.

Think about this for just a minute. Afghanistan is a country we’ve essentially occupied for two decades. Their army and government are basically paid by the US. We have military advisers down to battalion level. I’m sure we have plenty of on-the-payroll informants and agents in the country. We could travel anywhere and talk to anyone. And yet, our intelligence community can’t get this right. How much, then, do you think they really know about Chinese or Russian intentions or North Korean nukes? What does the multi-billion dollar intelligence budget actually buy us? Unfortunately, as I said above, I do believe them.

The next big news item showed a lack of harmony in answers between Austin and Milley. A reporter, who I think is CNN’s Barbara Starr, asks Milley how they plan on retrieving Americans who can’t get to the airport. Milley gives the spiel about the State Department having responsibility and the agreement with the Taliban, and then, at time hack 19:07, he says, “We have other capability to do other things if necessary.”

In Austin’s intro, he mentions there are US and British special forces in the force package at the airport. That means British Special Air Service and US Delta Force. So Milley is correct that the commander at the airport has the assets needed to carry out an in extremist rescue if need be.

Now what would trigger that and what the outcome would be are clearly uncertain. Then Austin joins the conversation at 19:28, which ends with him saying, “We don’t have the capability of going out and collecting large numbers of people.” What he’s saying is what the message was yesterday, that is, you’re on your own, see Biden Team Admits There Are No Plans to Rescue Americans Trapped Outside of Kabul.

The last point is a disconnect between State Department information and what Austin/Milley said at their press conference. Earlier today, my colleague Bonchie posted State Department Makes Incredibly Disturbing Announcement About Those Trapped in Afghanistan. In this post, State complains that the Taliban is breaking the agreement concerning foreign nationals being allowed through checkpoints to the airport.

Austin, at least twice, clearly says the Taliban are letting US passport holders through checkpoints. So was Austin telling the truth? Or was he trying to smooth over ruffled Taliban feathers? We have no way of knowing.

On the whole, the news conference started to lock in a picture of a Defense establishment that is fairly inept and may not have a coherent plan for dealing with the Fall of Kabul crisis. I know that’s a shocker, right? All of this leads me back to the James Bond martini.