A US Marine lieutenant colonel who posted a video demanding accountability from the military’s top brass over the withdrawal from Afghanistan has been sacked and will leave the elite US military corps.
Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller and the US Marines confirmed on Friday that he has been relieved of his duties after he posted his video to Facebook and LinkedIn on Thursday -- the day 13 US soldiers and more than 170 Afghan civilians were killed in the terror bombing at the heavily congested airport in Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul as thousands of citizens who has collaborated with the US-led occupation forces sought to be evacuated out of the country by the American military.
"Not making this video because it's potentially an emotional time," Scheller declares in the video. "Making it because I have a growing discontent and contempt for … perceived ineptitude at the foreign policy level… and I want to specifically ask some questions to some of my senior leaders.”
The video went viral. It garnered more than 70,000 views and 6,000 shares in its first 10 hours on Facebook and LinkedIn, spurring both praise and criticism in the more than 1,000 comments.
Less than a day later, on Friday afternoon, Scheller stated on Facebook he had been “relieved for cause based on a lack of trust and confidence as of 14.30 [2.30pm] today.”
“I have been fighting for 17 years,” added the late commander of an advanced infantry training battalion. “I am willing to throw it all away to say to my senior leaders: ‘I demand accountability.’”
Scheller further emphasized that he was “willing to risk my current battalion commander’s seat, my retirement, my family stability to say some of the things that I want to say”. Doing so, he noted, would give him “some moral high ground to demand the same honesty, integrity, accountability for my senior leaders.”
Scheller cites remarks made earlier this year by US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin suggesting that the Afghan security forces could withstand a Taliban advance. He also notes that two Marine generals are supposed to be advising the president: David Berger, in his position on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and CENTCOM commander Gen. Frank McKenzie, though he does not name McKenzie.
“We have a secretary of defense that testified to Congress in May that the Afghan national security force could withstand the Taliban advance. We have [the] joint chiefs [of Staff], the commandant is a member of that, who’re supposed to advise on military policy. We have a marine combatant commander. All of these people are supposed to advise.”
He also criticized Berger for a note sent to marines about how they might feel about the near-20-year US presence in Afghanistan.
“I’ve killed people and I seek counselling and that’s fine,” Scheller clarified. “There’s a time in place for that. But the reason people are so upset … is not because the marines on the battlefield let someone down … people are upset because their senior leaders let them down. And none of them are raising their hands and accepting accountability or saying, ‘We messed this up.’
“This amalgamation of the economic-slash-corporate-slash-political-slash-higher military ranks are not holding up their end of the bargain,” he then insisted.
Scheller said he was “not saying we’ve got to be in Afghanistan forever, but I am saying: ‘Did any of you throw your rank on the table and say, hey, it’s a bad idea to evacuate Bagram airfield, a strategic airbase, before we evacuate everyone?’ Did anyone do that?
“And when you didn’t think to do that, did anyone raise their hand and say, ‘We completely messed this up’?
“I’ve got battalion commander friends right now that are posting similar things, and … wondering if all the lives were lost, if it was in vain … Potentially all those people did die in vain. If we don’t have senior leaders that own up and raise their hand and say, ‘We did not do this well in the end,’ without that we just keep repeating the same mistakes.”
He would not comment further until he had left the Marine Corps, he said, adding: “My chain of command is doing exactly what I would do … if I were in their shoes.”