ADDS WHITE HOUSE SPOKESWOMAN'S TWEET
By Servet Gunerigok
WASHINGTON (AA) - Top American generals said Tuesday that they recommended keeping several thousand US troops in Afghanistan, contradicting President Joe Biden who said last month that no one suggested he leave military personnel.
"I recommended that we maintain 2,500 troops in Afghanistan. And I also recommended earlier in the fall of 2020 that we will maintain 4,500 of that time, those are my personal views," said CENTCOM Commander Gen. Frank McKenzie.
"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," McKenzie told a Senate hearing on the Afghanistan withdrawal, alongside Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley.
In August, Biden said in an interview with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos that no military leader advised him to leave a small troop presence in Afghanistan.
"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"? Stephanopoulos asked Biden on Aug. 18.
"No. No one said that to me that I can recall," Biden replied at the time.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley also said he recommended that 2,500-3,500 troops stay in Afghanistan.
"My assessment was back in the fall of 20 and it remained consistent throughout, we should keep a steady state at 2,500 and it could bounce up to 3,500 Maybe something like that, in order to move toward a negotiated gated solution," said Milley.
Austin was asked if it was true that the officers' and Miller's recommendations get to the president personally.
“Their input was received by the president and considered by the president for sure,” said Austin.
During the hearing, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki defended the US withdrawal on Twitter and said the presence of 2,500 troops in Afghanistan meant escalation because of the deal under former President Donald Trump’s administration.
"As @POTUS told ABC, ending the war in Afghanistan was in our national interest. He said advice was split, but consensus of top military advisors was 2500 troops staying meant escalation due to deal by the previous admin," she wrote. "@SecDef, the Chairman, and GEN McKenzie all reiterated."
The Taliban seized control of Afghanistan after taking Kabul on Aug. 15 two weeks ahead of US withdrawal, forcing President Ashraf Ghani and other top officials to leave the country.
The unexpected power grab triggered a rush to flee Afghanistan, including civilians who assisted foreign soldiers or groups and now fear the Taliban’s retribution.