A U.S. drone strike that killed 10 civilians while the withdrawal from Afghanistan wound down shows that several human intelligence assets were lost by pulling out and allowing the Taliban to retake control of the country, Rep Rob Wittman told Newsmax Monday.
"I think this could very well have been a rush to retaliate or do something in response to the 13 U.S. military members that were killed," the Virginia Republican said on Newsmax's "Wake Up America," while referring to a terrorist bombing at the Kabul airport that killed the 13 service members and hundreds of Afghans during the evacuation efforts.
"We took away many of those human intelligence assets that would have been on the ground to be able to confirm that this was indeed an ISIS target, so I think the two things combined to a catastrophic accident," said Wittman. "You know, we had seven children killed. That's not the way our United States military should operate. They need to look at how this operation unfolded where the decisions were made, why they were made, and make sure this doesn't happen again. "
U.S. General Frank McKenzie, the head of U.S. Central Command said last week that "at the time of the strike, I was confident that the strike had averted an imminent threat to our forces at the airport. "Our investigation now concludes that the strike was a tragic mistake."
Wittman said the drone strike, because it killed civilians, "emboldens our enemies around the world."
"They will point to this and say, look at what the United States does. They kill innocent civilians," said Wittman. "This does not help us and I think at every turn here, this is a breakdown in decision making for a variety of reasons. I think all of those, go back to the original decision, and that is this catastrophic and chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan."
He noted that he has traveled to Afghanistan several times, and has seen that there is a "high degree of effort that goes into making sure that we are accurate in the targets that we strike...it makes it much more difficult for us to operate because our assets are far away in places like Doha and we have now no human intelligence assets on the ground that's to be able to gather information from folks. We have no signal intelligence on the ground. All those things severely limit how effective we can be in Afghanistan to do counterterrorism operations."
Wittman also spoke about the continued controversy about claims made in a new book that Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke twice with his Chinese counterpart to allay concerns about then-President Donald Trump.
"The general needs to come in before the House Armed Services Committee because I want to understand the full element of this conversation with his counterpart in China," said Wittman.
"I want to see the transcript. I want to make sure I understand exactly what's happened there. There are a lot of things that are very, very troubling, and General Milley needs to be frank and forthright with the House Armed services committee. Like any member of the military, he needs to be held fully accountable."
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