Two top U.S. military officials said they believed several thousand troops should have stayed in Afghanistan and acknowledged other tactical and intelligence failures during the chaotic withdrawal of armed forces from the country.
Mark Milley, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, and Frank McKenzie, U.S. troop commander in the region, both made it clear during the testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that their personal views were in conflict with the decision. President Joe Biden took to withdraw all troops by its September 11 deadline.
“My opinion is that 2500 is a suitable number to stay, and if we were in fact below the number, we would probably see a collapse in the Afghan government and in the Afghan army,” McKenzie said in testimony, in comments provided by Milley.
None of them disclosed the advice they had privately conveyed to Biden. In an interview with ABC News on August 18 after the collapse of Kabul, Biden said “no one told me what I can remember” when he was challenged by his military advisers recommending that a force be present with 2500 troops.
The chaotic evacuation of the Biden administration from Afghanistan caused domestic and international setbacks when the Taliban returned to power while killing 13 US military troops and more than 100 Afghans.
Biden defended his decision and blamed the Afghan national security forces for not fighting, describing the evacuation of more than 120,000 people within a few days as an ‘extraordinary success’.
Milley describes the evacuation as a tactical success, but says that the overall outcome of the war was a ‘strategic failure’. He also acknowledged that military commanders did not foresee how quickly the government of Afghanistan would disintegrate while troops would leave.
“[W]”I absolutely missed the rapid 11-day collapse of the Afghan army and the collapse of their government,” he said.
Milley said it may have been wrong to train and equip the Afghan army in a “mirror image” of the US military, which led to the Afghan army being ‘too dependent on technology’. . .[and]our capabilities ”.
He added that the withdrawal of US advisers three years earlier had also hampered the US’s ability to determine the means and morale of the Afghan national security forces. “You cannot measure the human heart with a machine; you have to be there, ”he said.
Milley is also responding to criticism over two calls he made to tell his Chinese counterpart that he would warn them if the US planned an attack during the declining days of the Trump administration, according to a new book, Danger, by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa. Milley admits he spoke to Woodward and other people who write books about the Trump administration.
Critics have argued that Milley’s calls to China have undermined the president and civilian control of the military.
He said the two calls, on October 30 and January 8, were generated by “regarding intelligence” indicating that Beijing was worried that the US would attack them, saying he had the task of escalating.
“I’m sure President Trump did not intend to attack the Chinese,” he told the Senate. “My job at that time was to escalate. My message was consistent again: ‘Stay calm, steady and de-escalate. We’re not going to attack you. ”