After the nation’s prime military advisers told a Senate panel that they suggested President Biden to keep a 2,500 troop stage in Afghanistan, White House press secretary Jen Psaki appeared to verify that he obtained that advice however determined to ignore it and withdraw anyway.
That narrative, in addition to those portrayed by two prime generals and Biden’s protection secretary, fly in the face of what Biden told ABC News‘ George Stephanopoulos final month, when he flat-out denied that his military advisers recommended him to keep a power of two,500 in the war-torn nation.
Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. Frank McKenzie, the commander of US forces in Afghanistan, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that they suggested the president to keep the small troop presence in Afghanistan.
In her protection of the president, Psaki tried to cut up hairs — at one level over the phrase “split.”
“Let me give you a couple of specifics from the actual transcript because I know it’s been short handed a bit,” she mentioned.
“The question asked by George Stephanopoulos was, ‘Your military advisers warned against withdrawing on this timeline, they wanted you to keep about 2,500 troops.’ The president said, ‘No they didn’t. It was split. That that wasn’t true. That wasn’t true. It was split,’” Psaki mentioned, studying again a portion of the transcript of the interview.
She mentioned that’s a “pretty key part of the phrasing.”
Later in the briefing she was requested what the importance of Biden’s use of the phrase “split” was in that occasion.
“It is perhaps useful should you may simply inform us, what do you imply by ‘split’? What have been they cut up between?
Psaki shot again, “What’s confusing about that?”
“Well, it’s either one, they were advising that 2,500 troops should remain on the ground, or two, that someone was advising that it should be zero,” the reporter mentioned.
“I think it’s important for the American people to know that these conversations don’t happen in black and white, or like you’re in the middle of a movie. These conversations are about a range of options, about what the, the risk assessments are about every decision,” Psaki deflected.
“And of course, there are individuals who come forward with a range of recommendations on what the right path forward looks like. I’m not going to detail those from here, the private conversations and advice to the President of the United States, ultimately, regardless of the advice. It’s his decision. He’s the Commander in Chief, he’s the president, he makes decisions about then what’s in the national interest and he believed we should end the war,” Psaki mentioned.
Psaki later returned to the interview and Stephanopoulos’ question for Biden: “‘Your military advisers did not tell you, quote, no we should just keep 2,500 troops. It’s been a stable situation for the last several years. We can do that. We can continue to do that.’”
She mentioned Biden answered, “‘No, no one said that to me that I can recall.’”
Psaki mentioned Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Milley and McKenzie “made clear … if you stay there at a force posture of 2,500 certainly you’d be in a fight with the Taliban, and you’d have to reinforce.”
She mentioned the military advisers offered Biden with a variety of viewpoints “as would be expected as he asked for a clear-eyed, didn’t ask them not to sugarcoat, what their recommendations were.”
She additionally mentioned it was “clear to him” that the suggestions wouldn’t final lengthy and that there could be a necessity to increase troop numbers which may lead to combating with the Taliban and a rise in casualties.
“The president was just not willing to make that decision. He didn’t think it was in the interest of the American people or the interests of our troops,” Psaki mentioned.
Later she was requested if the military advisers have been OK with pulling out the troops.
“That’s not what I said. What I said was … and 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,” she mentioned.
“There was no one who said, ‘five years from now we could have 2,500 troops and that would be sustainable,’” she mentioned.
Psaki mentioned there have been additionally dangers related to rising the troop presence.
“We now know to absolutely have been the reality, given it required 6,000 troops to just protect the airport – something we now know,” she mentioned.
At the Senate listening to Milley was reluctant to go into element about his suggestions.
But he mentioned: “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. And I recommended that we maintain 2,500 troops in Afghanistan,” he mentioned.
McKenzie additionally mentioned that he warned Biden of the implications of drawing down the troop quantity under 2,500.
“I stated consistently that my position was if you go below 2,500, you’re going to look at a collapse of the Afghan military. I did not foresee it to be days. I thought it would take months,” he told Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC).
Austin confirmed that Biden obtained the suggestions from his military advisers in regards to the troop ranges
“Their input was received by the president and considered by the president for sure,” he mentioned. “In terms of what they specifically recommended, senator, they just, as they just said, they’re not going to provide what they recommended in confidence.”