Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley and United States Central Command head Gen. Frank McKenzie said their assessments that the US should maintain 2,500 troops in Afghanistan were their personal opinions, telling lawmakers they would not discuss their specific recommendations to President Biden.
Earlier comments from Milley and McKenzie seemed to contradict remarks Biden made in an interview in mid-August, where he disputed that military advisers told him that he should keep troops in Afghanistan after the withdrawal deadline.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin also told lawmakers that he knows Biden “to be an honest and forthright man.”
“Their input was received by the President and considered by the President, for sure. In terms of what they specifically recommended ... they're not going to provide what they recommended in confidence,” Austin said.
Milley told lawmakers that his assessment in fall 2020, which “remained consistent throughout,” was that the US should “keep a steady state” of 2,500 troops.
“I don’t discuss exactly what my conversations are with the sitting President in the Oval Office, but I can tell you what my personal opinion was, and I’m always candid,” he said.
Milley added that at a meeting of top military officials on Aug. 25, they “made a unanimous recommendation that we end the military mission and transition to a diplomatic mission.”