President Joe Biden faced backlash on Tuesday after top U.S. military leaders, testifying in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee, directly contradicted what Biden told the American public during an interview over the summer amidst the U.S.’s withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, and head of U.S. Central Command Gen. Kenneth McKenzie gave their testimonies under oath in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee over Biden’s chaotic pullout from Afghanistan last month.
Biden faced widespread criticism, comparing his prior remarks, made during an interview back in August with ABC News host George Stephanopoulos, with statements the generals gave today — statements which appeared to directly contradict what Biden said.
Numerous top Republicans online wrote that “Biden lied.”
Biden had the following exchange with Stephanopoulos on August 19th:
STEPHANOPOULOS: 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’?
BIDEN: No. No one said that to me that I can recall. Look, George, the reason why it’s been stable for a year is because the last president said, ‘We’re leaving. And here’s the deal I wanna make with you, Taliban. We’re agreeing to leave if you agree not to attack us between now and the time we leave on May the 1st.’
Top generals told lawmakers under oath that they advised President Joe Biden early this year to keep several thousand troops in Afghanistan — directly contradicting the president’s comments in August that no one warned him not to withdraw troops from the country. pic.twitter.com/cqGmpcJkJI
— POLITICO (@politico) September 28, 2021
McKenzie said that the recommendation that he gave to Biden was “shaped” by his honest opinion of the situation in Afghanistan, which was that the U.S. needed to “maintain 2,500 troops in Afghanistan” and that pulling out those forces would “lead inevitably to the collapse of the Afghan military forces and eventually the Afghan government.”
Milley later said that he agreed with that assessment.
Milley and McKenzie made the remarks during the following exchange with Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK):
INHOFE: But I’d ask General McKenzie, did you agree to the recommendation that General Miller had two weeks ago?
MCKENZIE: Senator, again, I won’t 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. And I also recommended earlier in the fall of 2020, that we maintain 4,500 at that time, those are my personal views. 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.
INHOFE: Yes, I understand that. And General Milley, I assume you agree with that in terms of the recommendation of 2,500.
MILLEY: What I said in my opening statement, and the memoranda that I wrote back in the fall of 2020, remained consistent. And I do agree with that.
INHOFE: This committee is unsure as to whether or not general Miller’s recommendation ever got to the President. You know, obviously, they’re conversations with the President. But I would like to ask even though, General McKenzie, I think you’ve all made the statement. Did you talk to the President about general Miller’s recommendation?
MCKENZIE: Sir, I was present when that discussion occurred. And I’m confident that the President heard all the recommendations and listened to him very thoughtfully.
Inhofe’s question about Gen. Austin Miller, the Commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan from 2018 through July of this year, is in reference to reports that Miller “strongly dissented with the intel assessment that Afghanistan would fall to the Taliban between 1-3 years, saying he thought it would go much, much faster.”
Miller also reportedly told Congress in a classified briefing that the U.S. needed to maintain 2,500 troops on the ground in Afghanistan.
Austin later said that Biden heard “this input.”
Gen. McKenzie: "I recommended we keep 2,500 troops in Afghanistan." Gen. Milley later said same thing.
Defense Secretary Austin later told Sen. Cotton this "input was received by the president."
President Biden told ABC last month: “No one said that to me that I can recall.”
— Lucas Tomlinson (@LucasFoxNews) September 28, 2021