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President Joe Biden's decision to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan was against the personal judgment of two of his highest-ranking military officials.
Both Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. Frank McKenzie, the head of U.S. Central Command, said Tuesday during testimony on Capitol Hill that they believed roughly 2,000 troops should have remained in Afghanistan.
McKenzie, during testimony in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee, explained that he “recommended that we maintain 2,500 troops in Afghanistan” because he believed that pulling the troops would “inevitably” lead “to the collapse” of the Afghan military and government.
Milley indicated his agreement, though neither leader was willing to answer specific questions about their recommendations to the president and only spoke to their opinions.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff acknowledged that his "assessment was, back in the fall of , and remained consistent throughout, that we should keep a steady state of 2,500 [troops], and it could bounce up to, to 3,500 maybe, something like that, in order to move to a negotiated gated solution.”
It's unclear when they came to these conclusions, and whether it was at a point at which additional troops would have needed to be recommitted. Milley noted that on Aug. 25, six days before the withdrawal, military officials were unanimous in their support of leaving Afghanistan because it would require recommitting to the war.
When asked why he didn’t resign, Milley said such an act is “political” because his “job is to provide advice,” but that doesn’t mean the president is obligated to follow it. He also called such a decision to be “an incredible act of political defiance for a commissioned officer to just resign because my advice is not taken."
Gen. Austin Miller, the former commander of the U.S. forces in Afghanistan, testified in front of the committee approximately two weeks ago in a closed-door hearing. Sen. Jim Inhofe, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Miller told lawmakers that he was also against a complete withdrawal.
Biden decided to have all troops out of Afghanistan by Aug. 31, and he held firm to that date in spite of pressures to extend it.
The Taliban overthrew the Afghan military and government even though the Afghan forces had the funding, technology, and training of U.S. troops just weeks before the end of the month, creating a reality that caught military officials off guard.
Biden has defended his choices regarding the withdrawal, claiming in an interview last month, "No one" recommended that troops stay "that I can recall."
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Original Author: Mike Brest
Original Location: Pentagon brass reveal Biden ignored troop recommendations on Afghanistan