A closed-door meeting with the top-ranking U.S. general in Afghanistan until July left U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe with more questions, the senior Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee said Tuesday.
"We have a lot more questions," Inhofe said during a press conference after the committee's classified briefing with Gen. Austin "Scott" Miller. "I hope they have some answers."
"They" would be President Joe Biden and the members of his administration responsible for the United States' calamitous withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Inhofe and the Republican SASC members assembled to lambaste Democrat Biden and his administration. They also made clear they intend to do their best to drive a wedge between Biden and the military by pressuring the later to put sole blame on the administration.
"This is going to be tough for the military," said Sen. Dan Sullivan of Alaska. "We're going to ask them to be honest, to keep the credibility of the military ... they're going to be asked questions what they think about statements from this president and this administration ... that we know are not true."
Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville said the military "will not get a knock on them because of this. We are not going to allow this administration to point fingers at our military."
The Republicans also made it clear they will do everything possible to not point fingers at former President Donald Trump, who negotiated the withdrawal with the Taliban and, according to published reports Tuesday, tried to order U.S. troops out before he left office in January.
But Republicans aren't the only ones angry with Biden and his administration. Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a SASC Democrat, told NPR he is "furious" about the handling of the withdrawal, and that Tuesday's briefing only whetted his appetite for finding "why intelligence was so lacking."
Also Tuesday, Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chastised Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin for declining to appear before the panel, leaving Secretary of State Antony Blinken to defend the administration.
Inhofe, with the right side of his face bandaged after a "dermatological procedure," noted that an open hearing with Austin — a retired general — Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley and U.S. Central Command Chief Frank McKenzie is scheduled for Sept. 28.
"This is just the start of an open, exhaustive, transparent process," Inhofe said.
Asked why, then, Miller's questioning was classified, Inhofe said, "I would like to hear from General Miller in open hearing. It could be (Sept. 28) but probably not."
Some analysts say Miller bears a large share of responsibility for the chaotic last few weeks of the U.S. withdrawal because it was his decision to close Bagram Air Base north of Kabul, and rely solely on Kabul's commercial airport for evacuation.
Others say Miller, who opposed the withdrawal itself, had little choice given the conditions placed on U.S. forces in the final months.
Inhofe declined to comment on Tuesday's report that Trump tried to pull out all U.S. troops in January, and that Milley essentially took control of the nation's nuclear arsenal and military because he and others feared Trump might try to do something extreme.
For Inhofe and his fellow Republicans, Tuesday was all about Biden.
"We still want to know why President Biden left hundreds of Americans behind," Inhofe said. That's something we don't do in America. That's something we haven't done before."
The 11,000 Americans and Filipinos left at Corregidor during World War II might disagree, but there is no denying the widespread sentiment that a lot of people were badly let down by the U.S. exit from Afghanistan.
"We need to figure out how things went so wrong, who to hold accountable and where to go from here," Inhofe said, while at the same time making it clear who he thinks that should be.
"We heard enough to know there are inconsistencies between what the administration has said and the truth," he said. "Clearly President Biden didn't listen to all of the military advice."