Retired Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the former U.S. commander overseeing the 2021 Afghanistan withdrawal, stated unequivocally that he alone bears full military responsibility for the tragic events at Kabul’s Abbey Gate. His declaration came during a congressional hearing focused on evaluating the Biden administration’s execution of the withdrawal. This admission arrives amid continuous scrutiny over the decisions leading to the August 26, 2021, attack by the Islamic State group, which resulted in significant American and Afghan casualties.

The hearing, convened by the GOP-led House Foreign Affairs Committee, also heard from Retired Gen. Mark Milley, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Both generals aimed to provide clarity and closure to the Gold Star families affected by the Abbey Gate incident, acknowledging the profound loss experienced but emphasizing the complex nature of policy and military engagement in Afghanistan.

Seeking Clarity and Closure

The proceedings reflect a broader desire for understanding the intricacies of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, highlighting the challenges faced on the ground and the subsequent policy implications. Gen. McKenzie’s remarks underscored the unpredictable nature of conflict zones, noting that despite comprehensive planning and execution, adversaries can achieve unforeseen success. The generals’ testimony before Congress in the past has revealed recommendations for maintaining a U.S. military presence beyond the withdrawal deadline, a stance that continues to fuel debate over the strategic decisions made during this critical period.

Committee Chairman Michael McCaul’s pursuit of documents related to the withdrawal aims to illuminate the decision-making process and intelligence assessments leading up to the evacuation. These efforts, coupled with ongoing dialogue with the State Department, signify an ongoing quest for accountability and lessons learned from the U.S. engagement in Afghanistan.