General Kenneth McKenzie, Commander, United States Central Command listens during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the conclusion of military operations in Afghanistan and plans for future counterterrorism operations in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on September 28, 2021. (Photo by SARAHBETH MANEY/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
UPDATED 5:24 PM PT – Monday, September 27, 2021
Commander of the U.S. Central Command General Kenneth McKenzie contradicted Joe Biden’s account of the planning for the botched Afghan withdrawal. During a Senate hearing on Tuesday, McKenzie said he had told Biden 2,500 U.S. troops would need to remain in Afghanistan to help the Afghan government contain the Taliban’s operations.
“I will give you my honest opinion and my honest opinion and view shaped my recommendation,” he stated. “I recommended that we maintain 2,500 troops in Afghanistan.”
Biden has previously claimed he could not recall such recommendations.
“I also have a view that a withdrawal of those forces would lead inevitably to the collapse of the Afghan military forces and eventually the Afghan government,” McKenzie expressed. “…Sir I was present when that discussion occurred and I’m confident that the president heard all of the recommendations and listened to them very thoughtfully.”
General McKenzie also said he was advocating for keeping 4,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan during the planning stage of the withdrawal in the autumn of 2020. That number was in line with President Trump’s public statements on the then planned Afghan pullout.