Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) asked Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley on Tuesday why he did not resign over President Joe Biden’s decision to not keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan beyond August 31, to facilitate continued civilian evacuations from the country.
During his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Milley testified that he advised keeping some troops in Afghanistan rather than pursuing a full withdrawal from the country. Milley also testified that on August 25, ten days after the Afghan capital of Kabul fell under Taliban control, he advised Biden against keeping U.S. troops in the country beyond August 31.
The U.S. military did complete its withdrawal of all troops from Afghanistan by the August 31 deadline. After the last U.S. troops left, an unknown number of U.S. citizens, U.S. passport holders and Afghan allies have been stranded in Afghanistan, seeking evacuation flights out of the country.
“I’m shocked to learn that your advice about staying in Afghanistan was rejected,” said Cotton, who is himself a former Army infantry officer. “I’m shocked to learn that your advice wasn’t sought until August 25th on staying past the August 31 deadline. I understand that you’re the principal military advisor, that you advise – you don’t decide, the president decides. But if all this is true Gen. Milley, why haven’t you resigned?”
Milley responded that “resigning is a very serious thing.”
“Resigning is a political act if I’m resigning in protest,” Milley added. “My job is to provide advice, my statutory responsibility is to provide legal advice or best military advice to the president, and that’s my legal requirement, that’s what the law is. The president doesn’t have to agree with that advice. He doesn’t have to make those decisions just because we’re generals and it would be an incredible act of political defiance for a commissioned officer to just resign because my advice is not taken.”
Milley added, “This country does not want generals figuring out what orders we’re going to accept and do or not. It’s not our job. The principal of civilian control of the military is absolute, it’s critical to our republic.”
Milley then referred to his father, Alexander Milley, a Navy corpsman who served in the World War II battle of Iwo Jima.
“Just from a personal standpoint, my dad didn’t get a choice to resign at Iwo Jima,” Milley said. “And those kids there at Abbey Gate, they don’t get a choice to resign, and I’m not going to turn my back on them. I’m not gonna resign– they can’t resign, so I’m not going to resign, there’s no way.”