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Marine officer who criticized senior leaders on Afghanistan is now in the brig

Marine Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller on Aug. 26 posted a video criticizing U.S. leaders following the Kabul attack. (Video: Stuart Scheller via Storyful)

A Marine lieutenant colonel who publicly criticized the Biden administration for last month’s chaotic evacuation of American and allied troops and civilians from Afghanistan is now in a military brig for violating a gag order last weekend, his parents said in a short statement.

Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller Jr. was incarcerated early Monday, they said on LinkedIn, after ignoring orders to refrain from posting on social media. Scheller, who was relieved of his command after his initial criticism of the evacuations, has been put in pretrial confinement at Camp Lejeune, N.C., according to Marine Corps spokesman Capt. Sam Stephenson.

But Scheller doesn’t yet face charges, Stephenson said. “The allegations against Lt. Col. Scheller are merely accusations. He is presumed innocent until proven guilty.” The lieutenant colonel stands accused of showing contempt toward officials, willfully disobeying a superior officer, failing to obey lawful orders and committing conduct unbecoming of an officer.

The time, date, and location of his proceedings have not yet been determined, Stephenson said. Scheller’s representatives could not be reached.

Scheller was relieved of command shortly after posting a video on Facebook that demanded senior officials be held accountable for the Taliban’s sudden takeover of Afghanistan and the deaths of 13 American service members killed in a Kabul attack last month. He has said he plans to resign his commission.

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The video, which Scheller shared hours after the Kabul attack, has been viewed 1 million times and shared 66,000 times on Facebook. “I want to say this very strongly,” he said in the video. “I have been fighting for 17 years. I am willing to throw it all away to say to my senior leaders: I demand accountability.”

Scheller has been critical of both Democrats and Republicans in subsequent social media statements. But he has appeared to attract more support from the political right for criticizing the Afghanistan withdrawal, including from Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Tex.) and former president Donald Trump, who shared a story about Scheller last month on his website.

Scheller though has distanced himself from the former president and his supporters, saying on Sunday in a Facebook post that he doesn’t want his help. “I was told by everyone to kiss the ring because of your following and power. I refuse,” he said.

Scheller has won sympathy from veterans who shared his frustration about Afghanistan. But his public questioning of the chain of command while still an active service member has been interpreted by some in the military as an act of unwarranted defiance and as a challenge against civilian control over the armed forces.

Marine Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller said he's resigning Aug. 29 after being relieved of command for calling out leaders over the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. (Video: Stuart Scheller)

Other remarks from Scheller have been seen as more alarming. A LinkedIn video, posted a few days after his first video that attracted national attention, echoed the rhetoric used by some Jan. 6 insurrectionists, urging his supporters to follow him and bring the “system down.”

Senior Biden administration officials have faced long sessions of questioning by lawmakers in Washington over the Afghanistan troop withdrawal.

On Tuesday, senior Pentagon leaders said the haphazard withdrawal was a failure but refused to fault President Biden during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. Lawmakers, depending on their party, tried to enlist the generals’ support in blaming either Trump or Biden for Afghanistan, The Washington Post reported.

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken had similar conversations with lawmakers earlier this month. The diplomat defended the Afghanistan exit, saying intelligence had failed to foresee the hurried collapse of Afghan government forces and that the administration had inherited a peace deal with the Taliban that compelled it to withdraw U.S. forces from the country soon.

Democrats have said that withdrawing from Afghanistan would never have been clean, and they have pointed to the successful evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people by U.S. and allied forces as evidence of success.

Republicans have expressed support for the decision to leave Afghanistan, but they have attacked the Biden administration for leaving behind hundreds of U.S. citizens, while questioning whether the deaths of the 13 American service members could have been avoided.

Americans overwhelmingly support the decision to end the war, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll, but by a 2-to-1 margin, they disapprove of how the Biden administration handled the chaotic withdrawal.

Read more:

Biden meets with families of service members killed in Kabul as U.S. races to exit Afghanistan

Inside the Afghanistan airlift: Split-second decisions, relentless chaos drove historic military mission

How Afghanistan’s security forces lost the war