| 21 May 2024, Tuesday |

US generals say they recommended keeping 2,500 troops in Afghanistan

Top US generals told President Joe Biden on Tuesday that they encouraged him to keep American forces in Afghanistan and voiced concern that the Taliban’s ties to Al-Qaeda have not been severed.
General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and General Kenneth McKenzie, commander of US Central Command, both stated that they had personally advocated that 2,500 troops continue in Afghanistan.

Following through on an agreement negotiated with the Taliban by outgoing President Donald Trump, Biden ordered a complete withdrawal of US personnel from Afghanistan by August 31.

Milley, McKenzie and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin were grilled for nearly six hours by members of the Senate Armed Services Committee about the US withdrawal from Afghanistan and the chaotic evacuation from Kabul airport.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden had received “split” advice about what to do in Afghanistan, which the United States invaded following the September 11, 2001 Al-Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington.

“Ultimately, it’s up to the commander-in-chief to make a decision,” Psaki said. “He made a decision that it was time to end a 20-year war.”
Milley, who shrugged off calls from some Republican lawmakers for him to resign, was asked whether the pullout and disorderly evacuation, during which 13 American troops were killed in bomb attack, had damaged US credibility.

“I think that our credibility with allies and partners around the world and with adversaries is being intensely reviewed by them to see which way this is going to go and I think ‘damage’ is one word that could be used, yes,” he said.

Milley said the Taliban “was and remains a terrorist organization and they still have not broken ties with Al-Qaeda,” which plotted the 9/11 attacks from Afghanistan.

“It remains to be seen whether or not the Taliban

can consolidate power or if the country will fracture into further civil war,” he said. “But we must continue to protect the American people from terrorist attacks emanating from Afghanistan.”
A reconstituted Al Qaeda or Daesh with aspirations to attack America remains “a very real possibility,” he said, but “it’s too early to determine their capability.”

Austin said the United States “did not fully comprehend the depth of corruption and poor leadership” in the Afghan armed forces.

“We helped build a state, but we could not forge a nation,” he said.
“The fact that the Afghan army we and our partners trained simply melted away — in many cases without firing a shot — took us all by surprise,” the Pentagon chief said. “It would be dishonest to claim otherwise.”

Austin said the United States had provided the Afghan military “with equipment and aircraft and the skills to use them” but “in the end, we couldn’t provide them with the will to win.”
Milley also testified about calls he made to his Chinese counterpart in the waning months of the Trump presidency.

He said they were intended to “de-escalate” tensions and the former president had no aim of attacking China.

  • Arab News