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Biden and Milley are telling different stories on Afghanistan withdrawal – who’s telling the truth?

Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff appears before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Sept. 28, 2021. (DoD photo by Chad J. McNeeley)
September 28, 2021

U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) commander Gen. Frank McKenzie and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley both confirmed before Congress on Tuesday that they recommended to President Joe Biden that a number of troops remain in Afghanistan, but those recommendations were seemingly ignored.

Sen. Jim Inhofe asked McKenzie and Milley if they agreed with Army Gen. Austin Miller on his recommendation of 2,500 troops to remain in Afghanistan – a recommendation he had revealed before Congress earlier in September.

“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. I recommended that we maintain 2,500 troops in Afghanistan. And I also recommended earlier in the fall of 2020 that we maintain 4,500 at that time. Those are my personal views,” McKenzie said.

Milley also concurred, noting that he recommended the US “keep a steady state” of 2,500 troops. Without the troop presence, the generals said they believed Afghanistan would swiftly collapse.

“This committee is unsure as to whether or not General Miller’s recommendation ever got to the president,” Inhofe said. “Did you talk to the president about General Miller’s recommendation?”

“I was present when that discussion occurred, and I’m confident that the president heard all the recommendations and listened to them very thoughtfully,” McKenzie said.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin also said the generals’ recommendations were “received by the president and considered by the president, for sure.”

In April, Biden proceeded to order the full withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, an effort that ultimately concluded by Aug. 31. The action took place despite the three top generals’ recommendations, but Biden claimed those recommendations didn’t exist.

In an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on Aug. 18, Biden told Stephanopoulos that his military advisers had not made a recommendation for keeping troops in Afghanistan.

“Your top military advisors warned against withdrawing on this timeline. They wanted you to keep about 2,500 troops,” Stephanopoulos said at the time.

“No, they didn’t,” Biden said. “That wasn’t true.”

When pressed, Biden doubled down and said “No.”

Stephanopoulos pressed further, asking, “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. No one said that to me that I can recall,” Biden said.

Despite the generals’ recommendations, Whtie House Press Secretary Jen Psaki doubled down on Biden’s decision for a full withdrawal.

“As @POTUS told ABC, ending the war in Afghanistan was in our national interest. He said advice was split, but consensus of top military advisors was 2500 troops staying meant escalation due to deal by the previous admin. @SecDef, the Chairman, and GEN McKenzie all reiterated,” Psaki tweeted.