He also noted that in the fall of 2020, under the Trump administration, he recommended that the United States maintain a force nearly twice as large, at 4,500 troops, in Afghanistan.
Answering questions from Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) About his advice, McKenzie said he would not share his “personal recommendation” with the president.
But he went on to say that his “personal stance”, which he said shaped his recommendations, was that the withdrawal of these forces “would inevitably lead to the collapse of the Afghan military forces and ultimately the Afghan government.”
McKenzie also acknowledged that he spoke directly with Biden about the recommendation from General Scott Miller, the commander of the US Forces Afghanistan until July, that the military leave a few thousand troops on the ground, which Miller detailed in a closed testimony last week.
“I was present when that discussion took place and I am convinced that the President heard all the recommendations and listened to them very thoughtfully,” McKenzie said.
McKenzie’s remarks directly contradict Biden’s comments in an August 19 interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, in which he said that “no one” he “remembers” advised him to keep a force of about 2,500 troops in Afghanistan.
During the interview, Stephanopoulos Biden asked bluntly, “So no one told you – your military advisers did not tell you, ‘No, we should just keep 2,500 soldiers. It has been a stable situation for the last many years. We can do that. We can keep doing that “?
Biden replied, “No. No one said it to me that I can remember.”
During the hearing on Tuesday, Inhofe then asked General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, if he agreed with the recommendation to leave 2,500 soldiers on the ground. Milley answered in the affirmative.
Late. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) tried to hold Milley to Biden’s statements from August and repeatedly asked the general if the comments constituted “a false statement.”
Milley declined to give a direct response, saying only that “I will not characterize a statement by the President of the United States.”
Sullivan then grilled McKenzie over the accuracy of the president’s statement, stressing that the general does not “have a duty to cover up the president when he is not telling the truth.”
McKenzie again declined to criticize the president, saying only that “I have given you my opinion and judgment.”
Later in the hearing, Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) Asked Milley if he should have resigned when the president decided to withdraw fully from Afghanistan against the generals’ advice.
Milley argued that it would have been a “political act” to withdraw in protest and that the president has no obligation to accept his military advice. “It would be an incredibly politically defiant act for an official to resign because my advice is not being followed,” Milley said. “This country does not want generals to figure out what orders we will accept and do or not. That is not our job.”
Milley added that his decision was also based on the experience of his father, who fought at Iwo Jima.
“[My father] did not get a choice to resign, ”Milley said.
“The children there at Abbey Gate, they have no choice but to resign,” Milley said, referring to the 13 U.S. officials who died during the evacuation from Kabul in late August when an ISIS-K suicide bomber detonated a explosive vest. . “They can not resign, so I do not intend to resign. There is no way. “