The puzzling oversight hearings regarding the withdrawal from Afghanistan

A thousand-piece puzzle spread out on the dining room table is easier to put together than the testimony from our top military and civilian leadership regarding America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan.

One of the Generals slouched his way through the hearing. Another General was defensive about improper negative interviews he gave regarding his former boss. The Secretary of Defense shifted blame for the whole thing to others and then dodged responsibility for cleaning up the mess he was partly responsible for creating. This is our top military leadership?

When one is faced with a thousand-piece puzzle, one starts by finding the straight edges. The puzzle has a border. What is the ‘border’ for these witnesses? The border is what our Constitution provides.

First, when Congress declares a war under Article I, section 8 of the United States Constitution, the generals and Secretary of Defense are responsible for conducting specific military actions in that war. The President is the civilian Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States under Article II, section 2. Civilian control of the military is a foundational principle of our governance structure.

Second, during wartime, the President, as Commander-in-Chief, has ultimate decision-making power regarding strategy and tactics and can fire commanders at will.

Third, Congress has some oversight regarding the war’s conduct and the judgment used in making strategic and tactical decisions. Still, the voters who choose a Commander-in-Chief every four years retain ultimate oversight.

So, this is the outline of our puzzle: In response to an act of war by jihadists against the United States, Congress authorized action in Afghanistan in 2001. Commanders-in-Chief, field commanders, and Secretaries of Defense then execute that war.

If this has the ring of ‘too many cooks in the kitchen,’ it is because there are a lot of cooks in the kitchen regarding the War in Afghanistan.

After we create our puzzle’s border, how do we fit the rest of the pieces together? We start with one corner and build inward toward the center. The corner we start with is, ‘What specific military action are these witnesses responsible for?’ The answer is withdrawing troops and appropriate non-combatants from Afghanistan. The question is not whether this withdrawal is wise (this is a political question); the question is whether they handled this mission properly. We have found our first internal pieces of the puzzle connected to one corner. In the witnesses’ own words:

I. A logistical success; a strategic failure. Translation: American withdrawal planes took off from Kabul International Airport but carried many of the wrong Afghans (did the Taliban let them through?) and left many American citizens and others behind to fend for themselves. Logical conclusion: a mission failure—both logistical and strategic.

II. Not taking an offer seriously (an offer by the Taliban to let United States forces secure Kabul during the withdrawal). Translation: We would have needed more troops to secure access to the Kabul airport. We only had enough troops to secure the inside of the airport itself. Logical conclusion: the General should have asked for more troops.

III. The call on how to do that (bringing out non-combatants) is really a State Department call. Translation: I wash my hands of the Department of Defense's responsibility for withdrawing Americans still in Afghanistan. Logical conclusion: the State Department lacks the manpower and equipment to evacuate large numbers of persons. Only the military can safely do that. The State Department’s job is to determine who is eligible to be evacuated. The DOD still must be involved until all the right people are evacuated.

So, following just one thread from one corner of the puzzle we conclude that the plan for the wholesale withdrawal from Afghanistan is a military and diplomatic disaster. Those questioned by Congress were given a single task that they failed to carry out in a professional manner. Their ineptitude has cost many innocent lives. How our country is left with ‘woke’ versus ‘warrior’ in our military leadership may be partly explained by Obama’s military purges.

Isolating one issue at a time, gathering facts on the issue, and then drawing logical conclusions is part of the citizen evaluative process so important in our Republic. The Congressional hearings were very informative. By design, 1000 pieces of our national puzzle are now thrown to the public in the form of one disaster after another to encourage citizens to throw up their hands and give up on determining causation and accountability. The People are the Sovereign, however, and must judge performance to determine who is to represent them.

Eventually, as each piece of the puzzle is painstakingly put together, and action steps demanded by the public at each stage, the whole picture will be seen. What picture might this turn out to be?

The Swamp.

M. E. Boyd’s Apples of Gold: Voices From the Past that Speak to Us Now is available at using the title and subtitle.

Image by Andrea Widburg.

To comment, you can find the MeWe post for this article here.

If you experience technical problems, please write to