Marine commander slams military leaders over Afghanistan withdrawal

An active-duty Marine commander was relieved of his duties Friday for a video post he made criticizing senior leadership in the wake of the Kabul attack that killed 13 U.S. service members. 

Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Scheller posted a video to Facebook Thursday in which he asked senior civilian and military leadership to own up to mistakes they made in the course of the withdrawal in Afghanistan. The Facebook post came after it had been confirmed that a number of Marines were among those killed in the suicide bomb attack in Kabul. Scheller said one of the Marines killed was someone close to him. 

“People are upset because their senior leaders let them down and none of them are raising their hands and accepting responsibility and saying we messed this up,” Scheller said in the video. 

He criticized Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and the nation’s top military officer, Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley for testifying that the Afghan National Security Forces would hold and for allowing the closure of Bagram Airfield, forcing evacuations to go through Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport.

“Did any of you throw your rank on the table and say, ‘Hey, it’s a bad idea to evacuate Bagram airfield, a strategic air base before we evacuate everyone,'” Sheller said. 

In a Facebook post Friday afternoon, Scheller said he had been relieved of his duties and would leave the Marine Corps. A Marine spokesman confirmed Scheller had been relieved of duty. 

Scheller said in his video that he has served in the Marine Infantry for 17 years. He introduced himself as the battalion commander for Advanced Infantry Training Battalion, based at Camp LeJeune, North Carolina. An official bio says he has been in the post since June 2021. 

After he was relieved of his duties, Scheller said in a Facebook video post, “I have been relieved for cause based on a lack of trust and confidence as of 14:30 today,” adding, “My chain of command is doing exactly what I would do if I were in their shoes.” He said he looks forward to a new beginning. 

Since Kabul fell to the Taliban on August 15, service branches have been reaching out to their service members to assure them that the past 20 years they fought and risked their lives  in Afghanistan were not in vain. 

Scheller, in his original Facebook post said he’s not mad it’s ending – but how it’s ending. 

“Potentially all those people did die in vain if we don’t have senior leaders who own up and raise their hand and say we did not do this well in the end,” he said of the sacrifices of the past 20 years.