Gen. Frank McKenzie confirmed on Tuesday that President Joe Biden lied when claiming that military advisers had not advocated for maintaining a U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan.
“I recommended we keep 2,500 troops in Afghanistan,” McKenzie, the commander of the U.S. Central Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “Withdrawal of those forces would lead inevitably to the collapse of the Afghan military forces and eventually, the Afghan government.”
Gen. McKenzie: "I recommended we keep 2,500 troops in Afghanistan." Also says he predicted withdrawing them would cause the Afghan army to collapse and the Taliban taking over. Gen. Milley agrees.
— Josh Rogin (@joshrogin) September 28, 2021
McKenzie’s testimony contradicts what Biden told ABC News in August as turmoil plagued the American withdrawal.
“So no one told — your military advisers 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’?” pressed George Stephanopoulos.
“No,” Biden said. “No one said that to me that I can recall.”
The crisis overseas, where an estimated 100 Americans remain trapped in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan four weeks after troops evacuated, has gripped the administration in scandal as Taliban fighters celebrate with tens of billions in U.S. military equipment left in their hands.
In the final days of the Taliban takeover, a transcript between Biden and the since-fled president of Afghanistan shows that Biden appeared to offer a quid pro quo, demanding new Afghan leadership over the war effort in exchange for continued U.S. air support.
“Things aren’t going well in terms of the fight against the Taliban,” Biden told President Ashraf Ghani in late July. “And there’s a need, whether it is true or not, there is a need to project a different picture.”
If Ghani empowered acting Defense Minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi, Biden said, “you’re going to get not only more help, but you’re going to get a perception that is going to change.”
“We will continue to provide close air support,” Biden promised. “If we know what the plan is and what we are doing.”