Acknowledging drone strike mistake was right: Former Joint Chiefs chairman | ABC News
s forces. This strike was taken in the earnest belief that it would prevent an imminent threat to our forces and the evacuees at the airport. But it was a mistake and i offer my sincere apology – that stunning admission from the pentagon that a drone strike in kabul amid the chaotic u.s withdrawal from afghanistan killed 10 civilians with no connection to isis k. It comes with the pentagon already reeling from the revelation that joint chiefs chairman mark milley, privately conferred with his chinese counterpart to avert conflict in the final months of the trump administration. Joining me now here in washington, is one of millies predecessors, former joint chiefs chairman mike millen, its great to have you here this morning, admiral mullen. I i want to start with that drone strike taken in what they called the earnest belief. There was going to be an imminent attack. How can such a huge mistake happen? Tragic tragic mistake and just my heart goes out to those family members that were so deeply affected, and i thought i thought what general mckinsey did was right, admit the mistake and uh apologize and look, and he also spoke later of possible uh reparations and in fact, In the end, i uh secretary austin has also committed to a review that uh, hopefully will look at accountability for this, and should there be accountability, absolutely i think there should. This was obviously an incredibly complex, fast moving situation. Wed lost those 13 military members.
A couple days before that was clear: intelligence uh that were additional strikes were on the way, so it was in that environment in which this uh strike actually took place as as sad as it was, and it was almost like. You had an individual. You know in a truck who was loading uh water turned out, you know big big water bottles, all of which sort of fit it and its almost as if we, the we just got caught up in the specifics of it and stayed with it, no matter what Its almost like, i remember, an intelligence officer telling me you got to be really careful if youre, deer, hunting everything looks like a deal yeah and i think theres there that theres a truth in that. Certainly, in that comparison, its it was a tragic mistake. I think the pentagon rightfully admitted uh that it was a mistake and then well see going forward and i just want to say the timing of this. The strike was august 29th. The new york times had an incredibly compelling piece gathering surveillance from the ground. Obviously they didnt have that on the day of the strike that was a week ago more than a week ago, and yet it took five days more for the pentagon to say this was a huge mistake. Wouldnt they even in the aftermath, have seen all those children run out. Well, i think youre going to want to try to get this right.
Clearly, they were convinced at the time it was a good strike and it takes it takes some time to do that, and this is the same command. Thats been evacuating, afghanistan, uh and, and all of that entails. So i im not overly concerned about how long it took what what does it say about our ability to conduct over the horizon. Counterterrorism. Well, weve done this for years. Uh, i think they have to be. It has to be a situation where you focus on it. For an extended period of time, you validate the intelligence, weve had drone strikes that were very effective over many years and didnt kill any uh. Civilians and weve also had drone strikes, which did, i think, its just a marker. That says, we need to focus on that. In the future and make sure we have it right as best we can, the over over the rising capability is really there doing it in an extremely quick, confused, chaotic environment made this one that much more difficult and problematic. I i want to turn to chairman millie youve, seen the stories about general milleys comments that he made in the book peril to bob woodward and robert costa, the chairman, quoted as saying he reassured china, china during those last tumultuous month that we werent going to strike. He says this is routine. Is it routine whats your reaction having having uh communications with counterparts around the world is routine and even having them now with china? There was a time when we had no communications with china or wed have a problem with china.
Theyd cut off all mild mill, uh connections and so actually im encouraged. The fact that the line of communication is there uh and this was routine. I think it was also overseen uh, certainly listened to by many other in the in the interagency process. So milly wasnt out there by himself even saying something like as as quoted in the book, and i dont know you dont know this exactly something like were not going to strike. Dont worry ill call. You yeah well im hopeful that actually, that part of it isnt true per se, but at the same time having the conversation, is really critical. Whats, a little bit alarming to me, though, is that the chinese would read the situation as they did as really chaotic and as if we were going to possibly strike its very clear – and i dont know this, because i havent talked to chairman millie its very clear. He had good intel that this was the case, but the misread by china is also worrisome and it speaks to the need to have these open communications so that we dont miscalculate and – and there was also something in the book about the nuclear possible nuclear strikes and And chairman millie going around and saying look make sure you call me to me, as i understand it, the you know: milly went to the national national military command center and he just looked the watches and the watch standers in the eye and said if this is Going to happen make sure you get a hold of me and its fairly routine, that you would look everybody in the eye and said you get that particularly for something this serious.
Do you understand that i i didnt consider that abnormal at all theres a part in the book, also that that chairman millie just thought donald trump was having a diminished mental capability? What should a chairman do? Well, i think that that that makes it that much more difficult if thats the case, i dont know that any chairman since 1986, when goldwater nichols created the responsibility of the chairman, specifically in law, i dont know if anybodys been in a more difficult situation than mark Milley and i dont know the specifics of it per se, but certainly that kind of situation as its depicted would make it that much more difficult and and youre on this line between the constitution and serving the president uh. And i sense he was there quite a bit, and i know him well enough to know that he would really try to do the best thing for our country, and i think he did that and just quickly the the submarine that we have now uh said we Will provide nuclear submarines to australia or the technology to do that and france pulled its ambassadors yeah its a big deal. I mean uh to see the australians, the us and uk come together for that technology and its going to give that part of the world and australia significant, sustaining capability in undersea warfare that they dont have and – and i think i hope – strengthens the security environment in That part of the world – but it is a big big change – uh and im very much in favor of whats happened.
We have about 10 seconds, but afghanistan, the withdrawal should there be accountability.