US Army soldiers assigned to the 10th Mountain Division providing security at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan(Picture: US Department of Defense).
Afghanistan

Afghanistan: US Military Figures Advised President Against Complete Troop Withdrawal

The Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff "decision makers are not required in any manner, shape or form" to follow military advice.

US Army soldiers assigned to the 10th Mountain Division providing security at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan(Picture: US Department of Defense).

A number of US military leaders have publicly acknowledged, for the first time, that they advised President Joe Biden against withdrawing all military personnel from Afghanistan.

Speaking in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee, General Kenneth McKenzie Jr, Head of the US Central Command, said he "recommended" the US maintain 2,500 military personnel in Afghanistan.

"I also recommended earlier in the fall of 2020 that we maintain 4,500 at that time," he said.

"I also have a view that the withdrawal of those forces would lead, inevitably, to the collapse of the Afghan military forces and eventually the Afghan Government."

And General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he did "agree" with Gen McKenzie's assessment that the US maintains 2,500 troops in Afghanistan.

He added the US military commanders were listened to, but said he believes "in civilian control of the military".

"I am required and the military commanders are required to give our best military advice, but the decision-makers are not required in any manner, shape or form to follow that advice," he said.

It comes after the rapid Taliban takeover of Afghanistan following the withdrawal of Western troops.

Watch: 'They will shoot me and my family': Desperate wait for interpreters still in Afghanistan.

Lloyd Austin, US Secretary of Defense, said before the Senate panel the US must ask "tough questions about the wider war itself".

"Did we have the right strategy? Did we have too many strategies? Did we put too much faith in our ability to build effective Afghan institutions – an army, an air force, a police force, and government ministries?" he said.

"We helped build a state, but we could not forge a nation."

He also said his "judgment remains" that pushing back the 31 August deadline for the troop withdrawal would have "greatly imperiled US people and the US mission".

"The Taliban made clear that their co-operation would end on the first of September, and as you know, we faced grave and growing threats from ISIS-K," he said.

"Staying longer than we did would have made it even more dangerous for our people and would not have significantly changed the number of evacuees who we could get out."