Top US General Mark Milley offered a full-throated defense of his behavior during the last days of the Trump administration, including a phone conversation together with his Chinese counterpart, as he and other senior military officials appeared before lawmakers on Tuesday for a hearing about the withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Specifically, Milley said the decision with the Chinese official wasn’t only appropriate, but that numerous senior Trump officials were aware it occurred.
“I personally informed both Secretary of State [Mike] Pompeo and White House Chief of Staff [Mark] Meadows about the decision , among other topics. Soon then , I attended a gathering with Acting [Defense] Secretary [Chris] Miller, where I briefed him on the decision ,” he told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Milley and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin are testifying publicly before Senate lawmakers Tuesday, the primary time that top military officials are appearing before Congress since the complete withdrawal folks troops from Afghanistan.
Austin and Milley are joined by the leader folks Central Command, Gen. Frank McKenzie, who played an integral role in facilitating the evacuation from Kabul — an attempt that has been the main target of immense bipartisan criticism since the last American military aircraft departed the Afghan capital.
During the hearing, McKenzie said that he recommended the US keep 2,500 troops in Afghanistan, a recommendation Milley said he agreed with. The testimony appears to contradict President Joe Biden’s claim to the contrary during an interview last month.
“I also had a view that the withdrawal of these forces would lead inevitably to the collapse of the Afghan military forces, and eventually the Afghan government,” McKenzie said.
Biden, when asked in an interview with ABC on August 18 interview if top military wanted him to stay about 2,500 troops within the country, said, “No, they didn’t. it had been split … That wasn’t true.”
In his opening remarks, Milley specifically addressed new reporting in “Peril,” a book by Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, which details the military leader’s phone conversations to reassure a nervous Chinese general and his efforts to limit then-President Donald Trump from potentially ordering a dangerous military strike.
Milley’s actions, which were reported by CNN et al. earlier this month before the book’s release, spawned sharp criticism from Trump and his allies, including involves Milley’s resignation which he be tried for treason.
Two unclassified memos submitted by Milley to the Senate Armed Services Committee, and obtained by CNN, include a timeline of calls between Trump administration Department of Defense officials and Chinese officials that happened from November 2019 to January 2021.