In a Senate hearing Tuesday, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and two top military officials admitted President Biden “received” their assessment that the United States should keep at least 2,500 troops in Afghanistan, contrary to Biden’s claims.
Austin testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee along with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, and the head of U.S. Central Command, Gen. Kenneth McKenzie.
The defense secretary told the senators that the input of Milley, McKenzie and other top military leaders “was received by the president and considered by the president for sure.”
McKenzie confirmed he believed that the U.S. should have maintained a presence.
“I won’t share my personal recommendation to the president, but I will give you my honest opinion and my honest opinion and view shaped my recommendation, and I recommended that we maintain 2,500 troops in Afghanistan,” McKenzie said.
McKenzie, who noted he made the same recommendation to President Trump, said he warned that the withdrawal of U.S. forces “would lead inevitably to the collapse of the Afghan military forces and eventually the Afghan government.”
Milley said that while he would not discuss “personal” recommendations to the president, his assessment since last fall was to “keep a steady state of 2,500 and it could bounce up to 3,500, maybe, something like that, in order to move toward a negotiated solution.”
In contrast, Biden and White House officials have insisted that no military leaders advised him to leave a small military presence in Afghanistan.
Biden told ABC News in an interview last month that “no one” recommended keeping 2,500 troops in Afghanistan, that he could “recall.”
See the clip from the ABC interview:
FLASHBACK: In August, Biden insisted that “no, no one” advised against his withdrawal timeline.
Today under oath, Generals Milley & McKenzie confirmed they recommended against Biden’s withdrawal timeline and warned him about the impending collapse of the Afghan government. pic.twitter.com/HejzUb5FIf
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) September 28, 2021
During the hearing, Milley defended private calls he made with his Chinese counterpart that were reported in a new book by Washington Post correspondents Bob Woodward and Robert Costa.
The book, “Peril,” alleges that during the Trump administration, Milley called Gen. Li Zuocheng of the People’s Liberation Army and reassured him that the U.S. would not carry out any military attack on China.
“My loyalty to this nation, its people and the Constitution hasn’t changed and will never change,” Milley told the committee. “As long as I have a breath to give, my loyalty is absolute and I will not turn my back on the fallen. With respect to the Chinese calls, I routinely communicated with my counterpart, Gen. Li, with the knowledge and coordination of civilian oversight.”
Milley said two calls with Li, Oct. 30, 2020, and Jan. 8, were “coordinated before and after” with Defense Secretary Mark Esper and acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller’s staffs.
He said he also informed Secretary of State Pompeo, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and acting Secretary Miller.
Amid calls by some Republican leaders for Milley to resign, President Biden has said he has full confidence in his Joint Chiefs chairman.
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