House Armed Services Chair Smith: Biden Admin. ‘Didn’t Listen to the Intelligence’ and ‘Didn’t Plan Better’ on Afghanistan Withdrawal

On Thursday’s broadcast of MSNBC’s “Hallie Jackson Reports,” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA) said “the Biden administration didn’t listen to the intelligence more carefully and didn’t plan better” for the withdrawal from Afghanistan, “and we’re now seeing the result of that.” He added, “the planning could have been better. And I don’t think anyone can objectively look at that and reach a different conclusion.”

Smith began by saying, “The decision to get out of Afghanistan, I think, makes sense for many of the reasons that President Biden has said. And to some degree, the rapid collapse of the Afghan National Security Forces and the Afghan government sort of makes the point that we could have stayed another year, another five, another ten, another fifteen, and the result wouldn’t have been different.”

He continued, “The thing that’s really troubling is that the Biden administration didn’t listen to the intelligence more carefully and didn’t plan better. I mean, when we first started doing hearings on the anticipated decision of the Biden administration to withdraw from Afghanistan in January and February, many members on our committee, including me, asked the Pentagon what their plan was to get our supporters out of Afghanistan. And the initial answers that we got from the Pentagon were, well, the State Department is handling that. We were like, okay, but it’s a security thing. They’re going to need you. And we really didn’t get great answers. Now, as you know, we in Congress have been pushing from that time. We passed a couple of pieces of legislation to increase the number of visas. We have been pushing for that plan. And sadly, that’s what was missing from this withdrawal plan, was to make sure that our security forces were there to protect the people that we needed to get out. … So, they did not listen to the intelligence as much as they should have, and they didn’t plan as much for getting the civilians out as they should have. That’s the bottom line, and we’re now seeing the result of that.”

Later, Smith viewed a clip of Biden saying that there was no way to leave Afghanistan without chaos resulting. Smith responded, “I think it is absolutely true that it was never going to be easy and it was never going to be painless. I think the president’s right about that. But where I think he’s wrong is I think we could have planned better for how we were going to withdraw the citizens from Afghanistan that we wanted to. And I think in the February, March, April timeframe when we were getting ready for this withdrawal, we could have done more to begin the process of getting those folks out sooner. I think it could have been less chaotic, and I think it’s perfectly the right thing to do to judge that and say, look, we need to learn from this, we need to learn about the mistake that was made and not paper over it. The president’s right that this wasn’t going to be easy. It wasn’t going to be clean. There was obviously going to be difficulty and a lot of challenging situations. But I think the planning could have been better. And I don’t think anyone can objectively look at that and reach a different conclusion.”

Follow Ian Hanchett on Twitter @IanHanchett

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