Gen. Milley to testify for second day on Afghan withdrawal

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Gen. Milley to testify for second day on Afghan withdrawal

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is set to be grilled by lawmakers for a second day when he testifies Wednesday about the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Gen. Mark Milley is scheduled to appear before the House Armed Services Committee at 9:30 a.m. to review the 20-year Afghanistan war and the botched withdrawal that ultimately led to the deaths of 13 US service members.

He will testify alongside Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Gen. Frank McKenzie, the head of Central Command who oversaw U.S. troops in Afghanistan.  

It comes just one day after Milley, the top U.S. military officer, acknowledged during a tense, six-hour Senate hearing that President Biden had been advised to leave at least 2,500 troops behind to prevent the Taliban from a rapid takeover of Afghanistan — advice he ignored.

Republicans on the committee pointed to Milley’s testimony as evidence Biden had lied in an ABC interview last month when he denied that military advisors wanted troops to remain, telling George Stephanopoulos, “No one said that to me that I can recall.”

“Your top military advisors warned against withdrawing on this timeline,” Stephanopoulos said to Biden on Aug. 18. “They wanted you to keep about 2,500 troops.”

President Joe Biden meets with his national security team.
President Joe Biden has repeatedly denied that military advisers wanted troops to remain in Afghanistan.
The White House via Getty Images

“No they didn’t,” Biden shot back. “It was split. Tha — that wasn’t true. That wasn’t true.”

“They didn’t tell you that they wanted troops to stay?” Stephanopoulos pressed.

The president denied again, saying, “Not in terms of whether we were going to get out in a timeframe all troops. They didn’t argue against that.”

Senator Josh Hawley.
Sen. Josh Hawley slammed President Joe Biden during the hearing, saying, “the president of the United States lied to the American people about the advice that you gave to him.”
Stefani Reynolds/The New York Times/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The “Good Morning America” co-host pushed Biden further, asking one more time if any of his military advisors told them the US should keep 2,500 troops in Afghanistan.

“No,” Biden said. “No one said that to me that I can recall.

The contradiction was brought up and slammed throughout the hearing, with Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) accusing Biden of lying to the American people.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin did not divulge his advice to President Joe Biden.
Sarahbeth Maney/Pool/Getty Images

“Here’s what I’ve learned so far, number one, the president of the United States lied to the American people about the advice that you gave to him about the military judgment that you provided. I think you’ve all testified to that effect now repeatedly,” he said.

Milley refused to reveal exactly what he told Biden, but said it was his personal opinion that at least 2,500 troops were needed to prevent the Taliban from overrunning the Afghan army.

“I am required, and the military commanders are required, to give our best military advice, but the decision-makers are not required to follow that advice,” Milley said.

Mark Milley.
Gen. Mark Milley was also questioned on reports that he went behind then-President Donald Trump’s back to deal with China.
Sarahbeth Maney/The New York Times/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Gen. Frank McKenzie, the head of Central Command, testified that he shared Milley’s view that keeping a residual force there could have kept the Kabul government intact.

“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. And I recommended that we maintain 2,500 troops in Afghanistan,” McKenzie said.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin would not divulge his advice to Biden.

Lloyd Austin from behind.
The six-hour Senate hearing Tuesday marked the beginning of what is likely to be an extended congressional review of the US failures in Afghanistan.
Patrick Semansky/AP/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Milley was also challenged Tuesday over damning reports in a new book that he went behind then-President Trump’s back to deal with China — assuring Beijing officials he would warn them of any planned military actions his commander-in-chief planned.

Milley defended his calls to his Chinese counterpart, calling the military communications critical “to the security of the United States in order to deconflict military actions, manage crisis, and prevent war between great powers.”

“My loyalty, this nation, its people, and the Constitution hasn’t changed, and will never change,” Milley added — avoiding addressing the allegation that he concealed the communication from then-President Trump.

The six-hour Senate hearing Tuesday marked the beginning of what is likely to be an extended congressional review of the US failures in Afghanistan.

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