Gen. McKenzie Contradicts Biden Over Withdrawal Plan: ‘I Recommended We Keep 2,500 Troops in Afghanistan’
United States Central Command Commander Gen. Kenneth McKenzie contradicted President Joe Biden on Tuesday, telling members of Congress he advised the president to leave some troops in Afghanistan.
McKenzie made the comment in response to a query from Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), the ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, who asked whether he agreed with an assessment that 2,500 troops should have remained in the country.
“I won’t share my personal recommendation to the president, but I will give you my honest opinion,” McKenzie told Inhofe. “And my honest opinion and view shaped my recommendation. 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 are my personal views. I also [had] a view that the withdrawal of those forces would lead inevitably to the collapse of the Afghan military forces and eventually the Afghan government.”
The remark undermined an assertion to the contrary that Biden made in an August interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos. “Your top military advisers warned against withdrawing on this timeline. They wanted you to keep about 2,500 troops,” Stephanopoulos said at the time.
“No, they didn’t! It was split,” Biden exclaimed, before repeating himself twice for effect. “That wasn’t true. That wasn’t true.”
Stephanopoulos pressed the question to be perfectly clear: “So no one told — your military advisors did not tell you, ‘No, we should just keep 2,500 troops. It’s been a stable situation for the last several years. We can do that. We can continue to do that’?”
“No,” replied Biden. “No one said that to me that I can recall.”
American armed forces finalized their withdrawal from Afghanistan on Aug. 30, a day earlier than a deadline Biden initially set.
McKenzie, asked by Inhofe specifically whether the president directly heard his recommendation, added, “I’m confident that the president heard all of the recommendations and listened to them very thoughtfully.”
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