Gen. Milley Contradicts Biden, Says He Advised Keeping 2,500 Troops in Afghanistan Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley speaks during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the conclusion of military operations in Afghanistan and plans for future counterterrorism operations on Capitol Hill on Sept. 28, 2021, in Washington, D.C. (Patrick Semansky-Pool/Getty Images)
By Fran Beyer | Tuesday, 28 September 2021 12:48 PM
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley on Tuesday said he recommended keeping 2,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan prior to the chaotic military withdrawal in August — a bombshell that contradicts President Joe Biden’s assertion he got no such direction.
"I won't share my personal recommendation to the president, but I will give you my honest opinion and my honest opinion and view shaped my recommendation," Milley said in a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Fox News reported.
"And I recommended that we maintain 2,500 troops in Afghanistan."
On Aug. 18, Biden denied his top military commanders recommended leaving 2,500 troops behind, telling ABC News' George Stephanopoulos,"No they didn’t. It was split. That wasn’t true," a transcript of the exchange showed.
When pressed, Biden added, "No one said that to me that I can recall."
Milley also told the Senate committee he won’t resign his post out of protest over Biden’s refusing his advice.
"Resigning is a really serious thing. It's a political act, if I’m resigning in protest," Milley testified, Fox News reported.
"My job is to provide advice. My statutory responsibility is to provide legal advice or best military advice to the president. And that's my legal requirement. That's what the law is. The president doesn't have to agree with that advice," he continued.
"It would be an incredible act of political defiance for a commissioned officer to just resign because my advice is not taken," he said. "My dad didn't get a choice to resign at Iwo Jima. And those kids there at Abbey Gate, they don't get the choice to resign. And I'm not going to turn my back on them."
Milley also testified he’d gotten an "unclassified signed order" from former President Donald Trump on Nov. 11, 2020, to withdraw all armed forces from Afghanistan by Jan. 15.
Military Times reporter Meghann Myers noted the order came two days after Trump fired former Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who was worried about such a move.
Trump did eventually pull the order back after further discussions, according to Milley.
The Jan. 15 date is notable because it would have taken place five days before Trump was set to leave the White House — and when Trump viewed the presidential election results as still unsettled, the Military Times noted.
Milley wasn’t the only military leader who advised Biden to leave troops in Afghanistan. Gen. Kenneth "Frank" McKenzie, the commander of U.S. Central Command, told the Senate committee he too recommended maintaining a small force of 2,500 troops in Afghanistan earlier this year, Politico reported.
McKenzie said he would not share his "personal recommendation" to the president.
McKenzie also acknowledged he talked to Biden directly about the recommendation by Gen. Scott Miller, the commander of U.S. Forces Afghanistan until July, that the military leave a few thousand troops on the ground, Politico reported. "I was present when that discussion occurred and I am confident that the president heard all the recommendations and listened to them very thoughtfully," McKenzie said.