Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley and Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr., head of U.S. Central Command, defended their actions ahead of the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan yesterday, telling the Senate Armed Services Committee that, contrary to President Joe Biden's report in an August interview with ABC News, they had advised him to keep 2,500 American troops on the ground in the there.
Milley said the result was "a logistical success but a strategic failure" during his testimony before the committee hearing about the withdrawal.
""The president doesn't have to agree with that advice, he doesn't have to make those decisions just because we're generals, and it would be an incredible act of political defiance for a commissioned officer to just resign because my advice is not taken," Milley said when Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., asked why he hadn't resigned in the wake of the Biden administration's mishandling of Afghanistan. "This country doesn't want generals figuring out what orders we're going to accept and do or not. That's not our job. The principle of civilian control of the military is absolute, it's critical to this republic."
McKenzie also shared his opinion after Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., asked if he agreed with the recommendation. "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," McKenzie said. "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 were 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."
McKenzie also expressed reservations about whether the U.S. could block terrorist groups from developing a safe haven in Afghanistan now that its troops have left the country, something Biden has said his administration will fight to prevent.
"That's yet to be seen," McKenzie said in response to a question. "We could get to that point, but I do not yet have that level of confidence."
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