On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki admitted that claims made yesterday by the U.S.’s top military brass, that they had urged President Biden to keep troops in Afghanistan, were true.
Several military leaders testified before Congress that their advice to the President had been to keep troops in Afghanistan longer than what had eventually occurred.
The disastrous withdrawal resulted in a terrorist attack that left 13 American soldiers dead and an unknown number of Americans left behind in the country.
The exchange with Psaki took place during Tuesday’s White House press briefing.
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A reporter asked Psaki after Gen. Mark Milley and other military leaders testified before the Senate on Tuesday, “Back in Afghanistan, the President said his military commanders were split.”
“We now know that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Milley, head of CENTCOM, General McKenzie and the commander on the ground, General Miller all recommended the president to 2,500 troops,” the reporter continued. “So who, in his military advisors told him it’d be fine to pull everybody out?”
Psaki was coy. “I’m not going to get into specific details of who recommended what, but I can, I would reiterate a little bit of what I conveyed before, which is that there were recommendations made by a range of his advisors, something he welcomed, something he asked them to come to him clear eyed about, to give him candid advice,” she said.
A number of commentators have made hay out of the fact that the President’s military brass recommended a larger troop presence, presumably to avoid the disaster that occurred, and that Biden had gone in another direction.
The question about which military advisers recommended pulling out all troops is the question Psaki refused to answer.
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Psaki then said the president listens to others but the decision is his.
“But of course, he welcomes advice. He welcomed advice,” she said. “Ultimately, it’s up to the commander in chief to make a decision. He made a decision it was time to end a 20 year war.”
The reporter pressed on, asking, “But you are saying here that military advisors to the president said it was okay to pull all the troops out, that it would be fine?”
“That’s not what I said,” Psaki responded. “What I said was, they recommend, I think we should not dumb this down for anybody here. We’re talking about the initial phase, post-May 1, we’re not talking about long term recommendations.”
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