United States military Central Command (CENTCOM) commander Gen. Kenneth McKenzie told Congress Tuesday that he warned President Joe Biden that Afghanistan could collapse and recommended leaving a small force of 2,500 peacekeeping troops in-country, contradicting President Biden’s claims that he was never informed Kabul could fall quickly.
“By July, many intelligence reports grew more pessimistic, questioning whether any Afghan security forces would muster serious resistance and whether the government could hold on in Kabul, the capital. President Biden said on July 8 that the Afghan government was unlikely to fall and that there would be no chaotic evacuations of Americans similar to the end of the Vietnam War,” The New York Times reported in August, shortly before the Kabul evacuations descended into abject chaos.
Biden has repeatedly insisted that the collapse was unpredictable and that he “was committed to ending the U.S. military role in the country,” per The Wall Street Journal. He also said, in speeches during the military’s exit, that America’s only options were complete withdrawal or a full, drawn-out conflict.
On Tuesday, in his testimony in front of the House Armed Services Committee, Gen. McKenzie and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, both noted that they had recommended to Biden that a peacekeeping force of around 2,500 troops so that the Afghan government could have a chance at remaining stable after an official coalition withdrawal.
“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. And I recommended that we maintain 2,500 troops in Afghanistan,” Milley told a House panel.
Gen. McKenzie went one step further, confirming earlier reporting but adding that he had warned Biden of a coming Afghan collapse.
“ Gen. McKenzie acknowledges reporting that he initially recommended to @POTUS that he maintain 2,500 troops in Afghanistan. His advise (sic) was that withdrawal would lead inevitably to collapse of Afghan forces and ultimately the Afghan government,” Politico’s Lara Seligman reported.
Seligman’s reporting was confirmed by The Washington Post opinion writer, Josh Rogin, who has followed the Afghan withdrawal closely.
“I recommended we keep 2,500 troops in Afghanistan,” Rogin quoted Gen. McKenzie as saying. “Also says he predicted withdrawing them would cause the Afghan army to collapse and the Taliban taking over.”
Rogin added that “Gen. Milley agrees” with McKenzie’s assessment.
Fox News noted specifically that the “comments appeared to contradict what the president told ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos last month, saying he couldn’t ‘recall’ any such recommendation.”
Gens. McKenzie and Milley are testifying on Tuesday in front of the House Armed Service Committee on the Afghan withdrawal specifically, though Milley is also expected to address reports, which originated in a book by reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, that he spoke with Chinese officials, telling them he would warn them ahead of time if then-President Donald Trump decided to launch an attack.