U.S. Marine Corps General Kenneth McKenzie Jr. briefs the media at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., March 13, 2020. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)
Testifying before the Senate Armed Services committee Tuesday, head of U.S. Central Command General Frank McKenzie confirmed that he initially recommended President Biden maintain 2,500 troops in Afghanistan, contradicting the president’s claim that the military unanimously recommended total withdrawal.
McKenzie also warned that a full withdrawal would lead inexorably to the collapse of the Afghan forces and government.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Mark Milley, also present at the hearing, echoed McKenzie’s assertion, saying they both believed that a small footprint should be maintained until the Taliban complied with certain conditions for withdrawal. While neither general would say explicitly that they conveyed that opinion personally to President Biden, McKenzie said it “would be reasonable to conclude that” their evaluations were delivered to Biden ahead of the withdrawal.
During an ABC interview with George Stephanopoulos earlier this month, Biden denied that military advisors urged him to sustain a small military presence in the country and reconsider the withdrawal timeline.
“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?,” Stephanopoulos asked.
“No. No one said that to me that I can recall,” Biden said.
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