The Senate Armed Services Committee Republicans cited Tuesday's testimony by Gen. Mark Milley (chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff), as evidence that President Joe Biden was lying when, last month, he claimed that the military had not advised him to keep troops in Afghanistan.
Milley declined to reveal what advice he gave Biden last Spring when he was considering whether to follow an agreement that the Trump administration made with the Taliban to reduce American troop presence to zero by May 20, 21. This would have ended a U.S.-led war on terror that began in October 2001. Along with Milley, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin refused to give Biden his advice.
Milley stated to the committee that he believed at least 2,500 U.S. soldiers were necessary to protect against the collapse of Kabul's government and the return to Taliban rule.
In mid-August, the Afghan government and U.S.-trained military collapsed. This allowed the Taliban to take over Kabul, where they had ruled from 1996 to 2001. Milley described the Taliban as a few hundred motorcycle-riding men, with not a single shot being fired. The United States launched a desperate effort to evacuate civilians and Afghan allies from Kabul Airport.
General Frank McKenzie, head of Central Command, was responsible for overseeing U.S. troops fighting in Afghanistan. He said that he agreed with Milley's assessment that a residual force could have saved the Kabul government.
McKenzie stated that he recommended keeping 2,500 troops in Afghanistan and that 4,500 be maintained at the same time. These were my personal views. "I was also convinced that withdrawal of these forces would result in the collapse of Afghan military forces, and ultimately the Afghan government."
This six-hour Senate hearing was the beginning of what will likely be a lengthy congressional review of U.S. failures to address Afghanistan. This hearing was a stark contrast to the years of very limited oversight by Congress of the war and the many billions of taxpayer funds it consumed.
"The Republicans' sudden concern in Afghanistan is plain old political," stated Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat who supported Biden’s decision to end U.S. military involvement.
Austin and Milley will appear Wednesday before Congress to discuss the war.