Marine Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller was relieved for cause after demanding that senior U.S. leaders hold themselves accountable for actions made during the U.S. military’s withdrawal from Afghanistan that led to the deaths of 13 service members.
Officials confirmed to Fox News on Thursday that 10 Marines and two Army soldiers, as well as one Navy corpsman, were killed in explosions near Kabul’s airport Thursday. Another 169 Afghans were killed, according to two officials who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
Scheller, a father of three who has been in the USMC Infantry for 17 years, mentioned senior military leaders including Marine Commandant Gen. David H. Berger, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark A. Milley, whom he said are “supposed to advise.”
“I’m not saying we need 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’?”
Scheller wrote in a Friday update posted to Facebook that he had been “relieved for cause based on a lack of trust and confidence.”
“My chain of command is doing exactly what I would do … if I were in their shoes,” he wrote. “I appreciate the opportunities AITB command provided. To all the news agencies asking for interviews… I will not be making any statements other than what’s on my social platforms until I exit the Marine Corps.”
He continued: “America has many issues … but it’s my home … it’s where my three sons will become men. America is still the light shining in a fog of chaos. When my Marine Corps career comes to an end, I look forward to a new beginning. My life’s purpose is to make America the most lethal and effective foreign diplomacy instrument. While my days of hand-to-hand violence may be ending … I see a new light on the horizon.”
In the Facebook video where Scheller made his remarks, the Marine also read an Aug. 18 letter from Berger that says service members’ sacrifices were not made in vain and that they should seek counseling if need be. Berger was responding to Marine Corps members’ posts on social media expressing anger and sadness at the current situation in Afghanistan.
“I get it. People have killed people. I’ve killed people, and I see counseling, and that’s fine. There’s a time and place for that,” Berger said in response to the letter. “The reason people are so upset on social media right now is not because the Marine on the battlefield let someone down. That service member has always rose to the occasion and done extraordinary things. People are upset because their senior leaders let them down, and none of them are raising their hands and accepting accountability and saying, ‘We messed this up.'”
Scheller concluded by saying that service members did potentially “die if 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.’”
“Without that, we just keep repeating the same mistakes,” he said. “…I want to say this very strongly. I have been fighting for 17 years. I am willing to throw it all away to say to my senior leaders: I demand accountability.”
The Biden administration has remained firm in its decision to pull all troops from the country by Aug. 31 and has evacuated more than 100,000 people. The U.S. has warned, however, of the threat of more terrorist attacks before that deadline.
As many as 1,000 Americans and tens of thousands more Afghans are still struggling to leave in one of history’s largest airlifts. Gen. Frank McKenzie, the U.S. Central Command chief overseeing the evacuation, on Thursday said about 5,000 people were awaiting flights on the airfield.
Fox News’ Brie Stimson contributed to this report.