President Joe Biden has sought to diminish concerns about his chaotic troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, in part by insisting that none of his senior military advisers objected to the plan.
During a Senate hearing this week, however, some of those same advisers told a much different story.
“I will give you my honest opinion”
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley, and U.S. Central Command Gen. Kenneth McKenzie each appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday.
Although the three officials refused to provide an exact account of what they said to Biden regarding the troop withdrawal mission, each of them suggested that they favored some level of continued troop presence.
For his part, McKenzie told Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK): “Senator, again, I won’t share my personal recommendation to the president. But I will give you my honest opinion. And my honest opinion and view shaped my recommendation. I recommended that we maintain 2,500 troops in Afghanistan.”
Last year, he said that his recommendation was for a force of 4,500 troops to remain on the ground.
“I also have a view that the withdrawal of those forces would lead inevitably to the collapse of the Afghan military forces and eventually the Afghan government,” Milley said of his recommendations.
“No one said that to me that I can recall”
Austin stated that Biden was made aware of their individual input.
All of these responses appear to fly in the face of what the president said during an interview last month. ABC News host George Stephanopoulos asked Biden directly if any of his military advisers suggested that he “just keep 2,500 troops” stationed in Afghanistan, the president replied: “No. No one said that to me that I can recall.”
The discrepancy led to some expressions of outrage by a number of Republicans on Capitol Hill, including House Minority Leader (R-CA).
“Either President Biden ignored the advice of his top military advisers and lied to shift blame for his disastrous Afghanistan withdrawal — or those advisers lied to Congress under oath,” he said.
In a tweet on the matter, McCarthy left little room for interpretation, declaring: “Someone is lying.”