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Milley, Austin to be grilled on Capitol Hill about Afghanistan withdrawal

Milley could also face tough questioning about circumventing chain of command, testing limits of civilian control stemming from allegations in Woodward book.

Updated: September 27, 2021 - 10:53pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

The Pentagon's top two military chiefs are expected to face tough questioning this week when they appear before lawmakers to answer questions about the U.S. military's chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley will attend hearings on Tuesday and Wednesday; first before the Senate, then in the House of Representatives.

The hearings will be the defense leaders' first appearance before Congress to discuss Afghanistan following the Aug. 31 U.S. exit from Kabul.

Milley is expected to be asked about allegations contained in the new book, "Peril," by Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa.

Actions attributed in the book to the chairman include making secret calls to the top military officer in Beijing, and holding a clandestine gathering of military officers to demand that they only obey command orders that came through him. Milley took the unprecedented actions because he was afraid Trump might launch a nuclear strike, the authors wrote. 

Milley has taken a defiant tone regarding reports that he surreptitiously tried to circumvent the authority of his then-commander-in-chief, President Donald Trump. While critics demanded he resign or be fired — or even prosecuted — the White House offered him full support.

Milley in a statement confirmed that the anecdotes in the book are true, but couched them as normal procedure — and signaled that he plans to remain in office.

"General Milley continues to act and advise within his authority in the lawful tradition of civilian control of the military and his oath to the Constitution," the chairman's spokesman, Col. Dave Butler, said in a statement.

Milley's doubling-down further alarmed critics, who described his actions as dangerous. 

Milley, Austin, and U.S. Central Command chief Gen. Frank McKenzie will appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday morning; and before the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday.

General Scott Miller, the last commander to lead U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, testified earlier this month before a closed session in the Senate. 

During that appearance, Miller told lawmakers that he had informed Austin, Milley, and McKenzie that he was "opposed to the total withdrawal," according to Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.).

Miller is not listed as a witness at either of the hearings this week. Just the News was not immediately able to reach Gen. Miller for comment.