“No,” John Kirby, a Department of Defense spokesperson, told reporters in Washington when asked if Austin had offered his resignation to President Joe Biden over the debacle in the Middle Eastern country, or if he intended to later.
U.S. military leaders, including Austin, have received harsh criticism from some for how quickly Afghanistan fell to the Taliban and how U.S. equipment fell into the terrorist group’s hands.
“The ongoing catastrophe in Afghanistan was entirely avoidable and is a blatant failure of leadership—both by President Biden and the Pentagon,” Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah), a former Air Force pilot, said in a statement.
“Allowing weapons, helicopters, ammunition, and classified documents to fall into the hands of the Taliban is inexcusable. Not being able to defend our own embassy is a disgrace. Leaving the Afghans who fought beside us to fend for themselves is incomprehensible,” he added.
Both Austin and Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, should step down, Stewart said.
The call was also promoted by other Republicans, including Jane Timken, a Republican Senate candidate in Ohio.
No one from the Biden administration has yet resigned, even as it faces crises on several fronts. The U.S.–Mexico border is seeing what is on track to be a record number of illegal immigrant arrests, while rising inflation and COVID-19 cases are negatively affecting scores of Americans.
Austin, Milley, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken briefed members of Congress on Sunday on the situation in Afghanistan. According to Rep. Kat Cammack (R-Fla.), they said repeatedly that the military was engaging in “an orderly and safe withdrawal,” and claimed that “the Taliban isn’t in Kabul.”
They also allegedly cut off most questions from members.
“This morning, we woke to the news of a fallen Afghanistan, now in the hands of an American-armed Taliban with chaos at the Kabul airport, thousands rushing the tarmac to board aircraft out, and Americans frantically attempting to evacuate our embassy,” Cammack wrote on Twitter.
She alleged that “this hasty withdrawal only demonstrates that this administration is more focused on woke politics than meaningful policy”—aiming at how Milley, Austin, and other leaders have defended the teaching of critical race theory and other similar ideas in congressional hearings this year.
Kirby told reporters that the situation in Afghanistan is “fluid and dynamic” as it continues to unfold.
Kirby confirmed that U.S. forces fired on “hostile threats,” resulting in the deaths of two armed persons. A U.S. servicemember may have been wounded in the tumult.
“We are laser-focused on the missions that our military men and women do best. They are increasing security, adjusting to rapidly-changing conditions, and they’re working hard to ensure the safety and security of all those under our care at the airport” in Kabul, he added.
Austin has authorized additional troops to go to Afghanistan to protect the airport, at which Americans who are trying to flee the country are located.
As far as the counterterrorism threat in the country, Austin “certainly believes that in light of recent events that a reassessment of the possibilities for reconstitution of terrorist networks inside Afghanistan is warranted, but we’re in no position at this point just one day after the events in Kabul to make affirm judgment either way or what that’s going to look like,” according to Kirby.