He also noted that in the fall of 2020, during the Trump administration, he warned that the United States maintain a force of almost double, of 4,500 soldiers, in Afghanistan.
Responding to questions from Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) about his advice, McKenzie said he would not share his “personal recommendation” to the president.
But he went on to say that his “personal opinion”, which he said shaped his recommendations, was that the withdrawal of those forces “would inevitably lead to the collapse of the Afghan military forces and eventually the Afghan government.”
McKenzie also acknowledged that he spoke with Biden directly about the recommendation of General Scott Miller, commander of the United States Forces in Afghanistan through July, that the military leave a few thousand soldiers on the ground, which Miller detailed in a closed testimony the last week.
“I was present when that discussion occurred and I am sure the president listened to all the recommendations and listened to them very carefully,” McKenzie said.
McKenzie’s comments directly contradict Biden’s comments in an Aug. 19 interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, in which he said “no one” he “can remember” advised him to maintain a force of about 2,500 troops in Afghanistan.
During the interview, Stephanopoulos Biden asked point blank: “So no one told him, his military advisers didn’t tell him:” No, we should keep only 2,500 soldiers. It has been a stable situation for the last few years. We can do that. We can continue to do it “?
Biden replied, “No. No one told me that that I can remember. “
During Tuesday’s hearing, 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 replied in the affirmative.
Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) tried to pin Milley on Biden’s comments in August, repeatedly asking the general if the comments constituted “a false statement.”
Milley declined to give a direct answer, saying only that “I am not going to characterize a statement by the President of the United States.”
Sullivan then questioned McKenzie about the accuracy of the president’s statement, emphasizing that the general does not “have a duty to cover up for the president when he is not telling the truth.”
McKenzie again refused to criticize the president, saying only that “I have given him my opinion and my judgment.”
Later in the hearing, Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) asked Milley if he should have resigned when the president decided to withdraw completely from Afghanistan against the advice of the generals.
Milley argued that resigning in protest would have been a “political act” and that the president is under no obligation to agree with his military advice. “It would be an incredible act of political defiance for a commissioned officer to simply resign because my advice was not taken,” Milley said. “This country does not want the generals to find out what orders we are going to accept and do or not. That is not our job. “
Milley added that her decision was also informed by the experience of her father, who fought on Iwo Jima.
“[My father] I didn’t have the option to quit, ”Milley said. “Those kids there at Abbey Gate, they don’t have the option to quit,” Milley said, referring to the 13 American service members who died during the Kabul evacuation in late August when an ISIS-K suicide bomber detonated an explosive vest. . . “They cannot resign, so I am not going to resign. There is no way.”