“At the end of the day the president made his decision,” Austin said in an interview with ABC’s This Week. But again, he was faced with a situation where there were no good options, all were very tough. And, you know, he reached his decision based upon thorough analysis.”
Austin claimed there were several contingencies in the plans, but the speed of the Taliban’s takeover when Afghan troops gave up surprised and obviated those plans, Austin said, .
He claimed military assessments “ranged initially from one to two years” on the Taliban’s takeover, noting that “nobody predicted that, you know, the government would fall in 11 days.
“I will tell you again, 20 years of the best training, the world’s best equipment, you know a lot of effort — you have to be surprised by what you saw and when you can measure capability you can measure capacity,” he said. “But it’s difficult to measure the will to fight.”
Austin said the US is engaged and working to retrieve its citizens left behind.
“I won’t forecast any option that we may take, but I will tell you that I’m going to do everything within my power to get people into the airfield” in Kabul, Austin told co-anchor Martha Raddatz.
“If we’re given more time, then we will do everything that we can to make the best use of that time,” he said. “It’s an interagency process that’s really honchoed or led by the State Department. But it’s all of our responsibility.”