INEPTOCRACY CHRONICLES – Top generals dispute Biden’s claims on Afghan withdrawal
Milley, McKenzie say they opposed full U.S. pullout by deadline
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, left, and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin testify during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the conclusion of military operations in Afghanistan and plans for future counterterrorism operations, Tuesday, Sept. ... more >
Top military leaders on Tuesday confirmed that they advised the White House to keep at least 2,500 troops in Afghanistan and to reject an arbitrary timeline for withdrawal, seemingly contradicting President Biden, who said the Pentagon brass was on board with his Aug. 31 exit date regardless of conditions on the ground and warning signs of a likely Taliban takeover.
The acknowledgments from Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark A. Milley and Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the head of U.S. Central Command, were among the most significant revelations from a heated hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee. It was the first such hearing with Defense Department leadership since Afghanistan fell to the Taliban on Aug. 15. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin also appeared before the panel.
It was an uncomfortable six hours of testimony for all three witnesses. They faced questions about decision-making that led to the hasty pullout, the chaotic and violent finals days of the U.S. combat mission, and the problems of fighting terrorism without a U.S. military presence inside Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.
Though hesitant to publicly contradict the president and stressing that they wouldn’t divulge the details of private conversations, Gens. Milley and McKenzie seemed to refute several points made by Mr. Biden and his top aides over the past six weeks. Both officers stated flatly that al Qaeda remains in Afghanistan, clashing with the president’s late-August claim that the terrorist group is “gone” from the country.
The most glaring discrepancy emerged when senators pressed Gens. Milley and McKenzie on exactly what they recommended to Mr. Biden during the spring and early summer. It was a crucial period for the administration as it weighed whether to move ahead with a full withdrawal from Afghanistan that was set into motion under the Trump administration.
“My assessment was back in the fall [of 2020], and it remained consistent throughout, that we should keep a steady state of 2,500” troops in the country, Gen. Milley told the panel.
Gen. McKenzie took a similar position.
In August, ABC News host George Stephanopoulos pressed Mr. Biden on whether any top Pentagon leaders directly disagreed with his decision to stick by the withdrawal date and pull all U.S. troops after 20 years of war, regardless of the situation on the ground.
“No, not in terms of whether we were going to get out in a time frame, all troops, they didn’t argue against that,” Mr. Biden said. “No one said that to me that I can recall.”
As vice president under President Obama, Mr. Biden opposed a U.S. troop surge in Afghanistan a decade ago. He made known his unhappiness that, as he said, U.S. military leaders had boxed in Mr. Obama and leaked selectively to the press to prevent a drawdown of the mission.
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