Senior military officials testified Tuesday, Sept. 28, before the Senate Armed Services Committee on the controversial U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. During questioning, they claimed to have advised President Joe Biden of the need to keep at least 2,500 troops to ensure stability in the region.
Among the officers who appeared before the Senate was General Mark Milley and the head of U.S. Central Command, General Kenneth McKenzie. Both stated without hesitation that they warned the Biden administration against a total withdrawal of troops.
“I recommended that we keep 2,500 troops in Afghanistan,” Gen. McKenzie told members of the Senate panel in Washington, Fox News reported.
McKenzie posited that it was clear that a total withdrawal “would lead to the collapse of the military forces in Afghanistan and, ultimately, the Afghan government.”
Gen. Mark Milley made statements to the same effect, holding the president responsible for the chaos generated after ignoring the recommendations of senior military commanders.
President Biden’s decision to withdraw the troops passed sentence on a simmering dispute that had been simmering for more than 20 years between the U.S. and Afghanistan, which according to leading critics, ended in favor of the Taliban thanks to the chaotic withdrawal.
Proponents of rigid Sharia law took town by town as thousands of citizens tried to flee the violence. At the same time, the U.S. ordered a gradual withdrawal of its military presence from Kabul.
After the U.S. formally announced its final withdrawal, the Taliban defeated U.S.-backed Afghan forces and took over the country, triggering a frantic 10-day evacuation mission that failed to evacuate all Americans from Afghanistan.
Before the Joe Biden administration, the troop pullout was already a plan agreed and decided upon several years ago. Criticism focuses on the inappropriate manner and timing of the final withdrawal.
Former President Donald Trump initiated the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, but troops were still in the country when Biden took office in January. Biden ended up complying with the withdrawal, despite recommendations to keep the troops because conditions were not yet ripe.
For their part, both Biden and other White House officials have repeatedly said that no military leader advised him to leave a military presence in Afghanistan, and the president himself told ABC News in August that “no one” recommended a 2,500-troop presence that he could “remember.”
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was another of the officials who came forward to testify in the Senate and also admitted that his opinion regarding maintaining a military base in Afghanistan was “received” by President Biden, despite the president’s assertions to the contrary.
In his opening statement, Austin explained that the situation at work during the military withdrawal “were anything but ideal.” He also acknowledged that the U.S. killed ten civilians in an Aug. 29 drone strike that was initially touted as a strike against ISIS-K terrorists.
General Milley also defended himself during his statement, though without elaborating, for the accusations received after it was confirmed that during the Trump administration, he maintained contact with his counterpart in the Chinese communist regime outside of the institutional relationships that his rank allows him.