Gene. Mark Milley said Tuesday that the threat of al-Qaeda thriving in Afghanistan and attempting to attack the US in the wake of its withdrawal is a “very real possibility,” while reiterating that the Taliban “remains a terrorist organization.”
“We must remember that the Taliban was and remains a terrorist organization and they have still not severed ties with al-Qaeda,” the country’s top military commander told lawmakers in his first congressional statement on the withdrawal.
“A reconstituted Al-Qaeda or ISIS with the ambition to attack the United States is a very real possibility,” he said, adding that opportunities for an attack could arise in the next 12-36 months. ‘
When asked whether President Biden was telling the truth when he said al-Qaeda was no longer in Afghanistan, both Milley and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said that al-Qaeda was and remains in Afghanistan, in a diminished state.
While President Biden’s rationale for the hasty withdrawal has often been a Trump-era peace deal with the Taliban, Milley said the Islamist group hadn’t even adhered to their end of the deal.
“There were 7 conditions applicable to the Taliban and 8 conditions applicable to the US. Although the Taliban did not attack the US forces, which was one of the conditions, it did not fully fulfill any other condition under the Doha Agreement.’
Meanwhile, Milley and US Central Command chief General Frank McKenzie said they had advised Biden to leave a small number of troops in Afghanistan to avert Taliban control, but the commander in chief insisted that everything be removed.
McKenzie said he recommended 2,500 troops remain in Afghanistan. He said he was sure Biden had heard his advice after the president told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos he couldn’t remember anyone advising him to leave troops in the country.
“I have recommended that we keep 2,500 troops in Afghanistan…. I also believe that the withdrawal of those troops would inevitably lead to the collapse of the Afghan armed forces and ultimately the Afghan government.”
Milley and head of US Central Command General Frank McKenzie said they advised Biden to leave a small number of troops in Afghanistan to avert Taliban control, but the commander-in-chief insisted that everything be removed
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley and Sec. Lloyd Austin testified on Capitol Hill on Tuesday
“I was present when that discussion took place and I am confident that the President heard all the recommendations and listened very carefully.”
But Austin said he believed leaving that last 2,500 would have led to a fight with the Taliban, leading to a bigger wave of troops.
“If you stayed there in a 2,500 stance, you would definitely be fighting the Taliban and you would have to fortify yourself.”
Milley said his ‘review was, in the fall of’ , and remained consistent the whole time, that we had a steady state of 2500 . should keep [troops], and it could go up to, maybe 3,500, something like that, to move to a negotiated gated solution.”
But, he added, on Aug. 25, 10 days after Kabul fell to the Taliban when Biden ordered a reassessment of military strategy, top commanders at the time agreed on the need to move forward with the military strategy. withdrawal to avoid war.
My analysis was that an accelerated withdrawal without meeting specific and necessary conditions risks losing substantial gains in Afghanistan, damaging American credibility worldwide and causing a general collapse of the Afghan government, resulting in a full-blown Taliban regime. takeover or general civil war,” said Milly.
He refused to say exactly what he told the president.
When asked by Senator Tom Cotton why he didn’t resign in protest at the withdrawal, Milley replied that such an act of “political defiance” is a “serious matter” as he said “my job is to give advice.” ..the president doesn’t have to agree with that advice.”
“My advice is, don’t put specific dates” on recordings, Milley said, pointing out that two presidents had made the devastating mistake. “Make things conditional.”
President Biden set an August 31 deadline for the withdrawal of all US troops from Afghanistan, extending Trump’s earlier May deadline.
The announcement sparked a storm of the Taliban who claimed the capital, Kabul on August 14, and shortly after, a terrorist attack killed 180 people, including 13 US servicemen.
Austin also tried to avoid questions about whether the evacuation operation would have been more successful had the military not shot down Bagram Air Base.
“To preserve Bagram, as many as 5,000 American troops would have been compromised just to operate and defend it, and it would have contributed little to the mission assigned to us, which was to protect and defend the embassy.” it was about 30 miles away.
“That distance from Kabul also made Bagram of little value in the evacuation.”