Milley says timeline is shortened for terrorists regrouping in Afghanistan: Report

The increased threat level came as the Afghan president was fleeing the country and the U.S. military was evacuating the American embassy in Kabul.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley
(DoD / Lisa Ferdinando)

The timeline of terrorist groups regrouping in Afghanistan has moved up, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley told senators on Sunday.

During the phone call senators had with Milley, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) asked if an assessment given to Congress in June of a "medium" risk of terrorist groups regrouping in Afghanistan in the next two years would be revised, Axios reported.

"Yes," Milley responded, saying that he assumed the timeline would be moved up and that he would be glad to discuss it with senators in a classified briefing, a source on the call told Axios.

Milley answered as reports were coming in that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani was fleeing Afghanistan and the U.S. military was evacuating the American embassy in Kabul.

There was bipartisan concern on the call regarding the 20,000 Afghans who helped the U.S. during the war and are seeking evacuation for fear of Taliban retaliation. One of the sources on the call said that it was impossible for all those Afghans to be evacuated by Aug. 31 and that many of them were not in Kabul. "[I]f you're not in Kabul now, how do you get to Kabul?" the source told Axios.

"Two takeaways for me: We're gonna leave tens of thousands of people behind ... and the timeline in terms of threats has accelerated," the source said.

Milley, Austin, and Blinken also had a phone call with House members, where House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said President Biden's withdrawal from Afghanistan lacked a clear plan and was an "embarrassment" that would resound for decades, according to Politico.

"I have passion and I have anger. I want to know where President Ghani is," McCarthy said, two sources on the call told Politico.

Austin responded to Republican criticism by saying the Afghan military had weak resolve and that they "can't buy will and can't purchase leadership," the sources said.

Republicans were angered by the comment, and Rep. Mike Waltz (R-Fla.), who served in Afghanistan, said the Biden administration was blaming their poor policy on Afghans who had fought and died with American troops during the war.

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) told ABC's "This Week" earlier on Sunday, "It's not just that people predicted this would happen; everyone was warned that this would happen. We've now created a situation where as we get to the 20th anniversary of 9/11, we are surrendering Afghanistan to the terrorist organization that housed al Qaeda when they plotted and planned the attacks against us."

Sunday's briefing was the first chance Congress members had to ask the Pentagon about the situation in Afghanistan. A classified briefing is scheduled to occur the week of Aug. 23, when the House returns.

McCarthy and other GOP members said they've received hardly any information on the Biden administration's strategy and that there wasn't enough time to ask questions on the call.