On August 30, 2021, the world was shocked to hear the news of the United States Armed Forces completing its withdrawal from Afghanistan to mark the end of the 20-year war in the country. With the forces completely removed from Afghanistan, the Taliban were quick to move in and take control of the land. While the decision to withdraw the forces has driven a wedge among Americans, top generals in the US military have revealed that they advised President Joe Biden to keep the troops in Afghanistan.
Prior to the complete withdrawal, there were 2,500 troops who remained stationed in the country in August. Generals Mark Milley and Frank McKenzie relayed their testimony to Congress, contradicting President Joe Biden, who said he did not recall any advice. Gen Milley said that they were surprised at the speed of the Afghan government’s collapse as he and Gen McKenzie gave their testimony, putting top military brass against the commander-in-chief as the Biden administration continues to receive backlash and hard-pressed questions about what critics are calling a botched withdrawal.
The two generals were questioned by the Senate armed services committee along with Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin on Tuesday. The hearing took place weeks after the withdrawal at Kabul airport when foreign powers sought to bring their citizens home as thousands of desperate Afghans begged for rescue. In the event, a suicide attack took place, killing 182 people that included thirteen US service personell and over 169 Afghans.
During the questioning, Gen McKenzie revealed that he recommended a small force of troops in Afghanistan, a contradiction to President Joe Biden’s assertion to an ABC journalist in mid-August that he did not recall receiving anyone advice. Gen Milley said that he agreed with the recommendation, but when pressed by Alaska Republican Dan Sullivan whether the president’s comments were a “false statement,” the general refused to answer him.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki addressed the issue, saying that if the troops remained in the country beyond the August deadline, the country would now be at war with the Taliban. “The president values the candid advice of the joint chiefs of the military,” she said, “That doesn’t mean he always agrees with it.”
While the generals and defence secretary have been testifying before Congress, Joe Biden’s own words may have done the most damage to the president on Tuesday. Republicans chastised him for his statements that the generals either explicitly or indirectly contradicted. In another August interview, Biden remained firm on his stance that no generals urged him to maintain some troops in Afghanistan to prevent a Talibalan takeover. Generals Milley and McKenzie said they believed the troops were needed, and Gen McKenzie insisted that he told the president as much. Republicans questioned why Biden promised to hold the military in place until all the US citizens were evacuated—a promise that was not held as Americans still remain in Afghanistan weeks after the final withdrawal.
Lastly, the two generals stated that al-Qaeda is still in Afghanistan, directly contradicting Biden’s statement that the terrorist organization had been eradicated. The contradictions have given Republicans enough ammunition to accuse the president of lying to the people.