Top Generals Publicly Contradict Biden's Previous Statement Over Afghanistan Troop Withdrawal

Top Generals Publicly Contradict Biden's Previous Statement Over Afghanistan Troop Withdrawal

The president misleads previous claims of troop withdrawal

Mona Salama
Mona Salama
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September 28, 2021

Top military leaders declared Tuesday that they recommended to President Biden in keeping a few thousand troops in Afghanistan beyond the August 31st withdrawal deadline, directly contradicting the president's misled earlier claims where he flat-out denied that "no one" had warned him in pulling out all troops from the war-torn country.

Gen. Frank McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command who oversaw the withdrawal, and Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff both under oath told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee during Tuesday's hearing that they cautioned the president from entirely withdrawing and advised to maintain a small troop presence, but Biden ignored their warnings and went forward with his withdraw plan anyway. The move ultimately led to a hastily botched withdrawal filled with chaos at the Kabul airport, the deaths of 13 American service members, and the abandonment of Americans and Afghan allies in the war-torn country.

According to the Wall Street Journal report following his announcement ordering a complete withdraw of the remaining U.S. troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, Biden had already "made up his mind" on April 6, despite concerns from his military commanders.

McKenzie told Senate members that he recommended to Biden to maintain a small force of 2,500 troops in Afghanistan earlier this year, noting his "personal view" of a withdrawal would "lead inevitably to the collapse of the Afghan military forces and, eventually, the Afghan government." He also acknowledged that he talked to Biden directly about the recommendation by Gen. Scott Miller in July, the commander of U.S. Forces Afghanistan.

"I was present when that discussion occurred, and I am confident that the president heard all the recommendations and listened to them very thoughtfully," McKenzie said.

When asked if he also held the same recommendation of leaving 2,500 troops on the ground, Milley affirmatively agreed with the assessment but refused to answer if Biden's remark constituted "a false statement."

In his testimony, Milley revealed that he believed an accelerated withdrawal would risk "losing the substantial gains made in Afghanistan," a "general collapse of the Afghan National Security Forces (NSF) and the Afghan government," and resulted in a complete Taliban takeover, or general civil war." He noted that it also heavily damaged U.S credibility as our "global credibility with allies and partners would suffer," and gives the "narrative of abandoning the Afghans would become widespread."

The revelation from the two of the U.S.’ top military commanders directly contradicts Biden’s comments during his Aug. 18 ABC News interview. He claimed just days following the Taliban takeover of Kabul that "no one" advised him to keep a force of about 2,500 troops in Afghanistan. During the interview, ABC News' Geroge Stefanpolous asked Biden point-blank: "So no one told —  your military advisors did not tell you, 'No, we should just keep 2,500 troops. It's been a stable situation for the last several years. We can do that. We can continue to do that?'"

"No," Biden shot back. "No one said that to me that I can recall."

White House press secretary Jen Psaki attempted to play down that Biden had misled the American public following the top generals' remarks during the Senate hearing. Psaki claimed that Biden was presented with a "range of viewpoints," and ultimately, the president believed that staying in Afghanistan would escalate into an increase of more troops that would potentially risk a war with the Taliban.

"There were recommendations made by a range of his advisors — something he welcomed, something he asked them to come to him clear-eyed about, to give him candid advice," Psaki said during Tuesday's White House Daily Briefing. "Ultimately, it's up to the Commander-in-Chief to make a decision. He made a decision: It was time to end a 20-year war."

"It's a risk assessment for every president about what is in the interest of the United States of America, our military, and our national interests. If we had kept 2,500 troops there, we would have increased the number of troops, we would have been at war with the Taliban, we would have had more U.S. casualties," Psaki added.

Austin, Milley, and McKenzie are scheduled Wednesday to testify before the House Armed Services Committee.

Mona Salama

Mona Salama

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