- Top generals told senators they advised keeping 2,500 troops in Afghanistan.
- Biden previously said he’d never received such a recommendation.
- The Biden admin. continues to face criticism over the Afghanistan withdrawal.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
US Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, commander of US Central Command, and Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Tuesday offered testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee that raised questions about prior claims made by President Joe Biden regarding the Afghanistan withdrawal.
The generals testified as the Biden administration continues to face bipartisan criticism over its handling of the US withdrawal, which was completed in late August.
McKenzie told senators that he recommended maintaining 2,500 US troops in Afghanistan. The general said that he also held the view “that the withdrawal of those forces would lead inevitably to the collapse of the Afghan military forces, and eventually the Afghan government.”
Milley, the top military advisor to the president, said he agreed.
McKenzie also said that last fall, when President Donald Trump was still in office, he advised keeping a force of around 4,500 troops in Afghanistan.
-ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) September 28, 2021
It was previously reported that Biden overruled the top generals by pulling all US troops from Afghanistan.
And Biden during an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos said that no one advised him to keep 2,500 troops in the country.
“Your top military advisors warned against withdrawing on this timeline. They wanted you to keep about 2,500 troops,” Stephanopoulos said.
Biden replied, “No, they didn’t.”
Stephanopoulos continued to press the president, “So no one told – 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?'”
To which Biden said, “No. No one said that to me that I can recall.”
Both McKenzie and Milley were repeatedly pressed by senators as to whether they explicitly or directly recommended to Biden to keep 2,500 troops in Afghanistan, but both generals declined to offer further details in that regard.
GOP Sen. Dan Sullivan of Alaska asked Milley whether Biden’s comments during the ABC interview represented “a false statement.”
“I’m not going to characterize a statement of the President of the United States,” Milley said.
While questioned on the issue by GOP Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said, “Their input was received by the president and considered by the president, for sure.”
“In terms of what they specifically recommended, senator, as they just said, they’re not going to provide what they recommended in confidence,” Austin added.
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