Gen. Mark A. Milley faces Congress as military controversies mount – Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON — 

Top military leaders are scheduled to testify on Capitol Hill on Tuesday as they face a cascade of controversies over the withdrawal from Afghanistan and behind-the-scenes maneuvering in the final months of Donald Trump’s presidency.

Lloyd J. Austin III, the Defense secretary; Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., who oversaw operations in Afghanistan, are slated to appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee at 6:30 a.m. PST.

Milley’s testimony will probably be the most closely watched, given his central role in several dramas during the presidential transition period.

He reportedly feared that Trump was becoming increasingly erratic and might launch an improper military strike. According to “Peril,” a new book by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, Milley reviewed nuclear launch procedures and privately assured his Chinese counterpart that no surprise attacks were in the works.

Milley told reporters earlier this month that the call was “perfectly within the duties and responsibilities” of his role as the top presidential military advisor. He said there are “routine” conversations to “reassure both allies and adversaries.”

But the reporting has sparked criticism from Republicans who accuse the general of undermining the chain of command. Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that if the book is accurate, “Milley needs to be read his rights.”

Trump also lashed out at Milley, whom he appointed as chairman of the Joint Chiefs in 2019, and suggested that he should be charged with treason.

Biden has voiced his support for Milley, saying he has “great confidence” in him.

Milley was also involved in controversy over the withdrawal from Afghanistan. After Islamic State terrorists targeted the evacuation effort with a suicide bombing, U.S. forces blew up a car that they said was being used to prepare for a subsequent attack.

Despite concerns that civilians were killed, Milley called it a “righteous strike.” The Pentagon later admitted that the drone strike was a deadly error, and no terrorists were present when the U.S. missile made impact.

Much of the hearing will likely hinge on how the military prepared for its withdrawal and whether the evacuation could have been handled more smoothly. Thirteen American service members died during the suicide bombing, and thousands of Afghan allies were left behind as the Taliban retook control of the country.

“I remain deeply concerned about the events that accompanied our withdrawal and the ongoing humanitarian crisis,” Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement when announcing the hearing.