President Joe Biden has made a range of dubious remarks in an effort to diminish the outrage over his administration’s chaotic troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Now, a pair of claims that the president has made in recent weeks are being contradicted by senior military leaders.
“That’s not going to be easy”
According to a Washington Examiner op-ed, a Senate committee hearing on Tuesday unearthed remarks undermining Biden’s claims that a so-called over-the-horizon strike capability would be sufficient to combat terrorists in Afghanistan as well as that no one at the Pentagon advised him to leave a remnant of U.S. troops on the ground there.
In reality, the military officials expressed their desire to keep roughly 2,500 troops in Afghanistan and not rely entirely on over-the-horizon strikes.
Among those who testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee were Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley, and U.S. Central Command Gen. Kenneth McKenzie.
Milley cited the “real possibility” that terrorist networks like ISIS and al Qaeda could reconstitute and plan attacks from “ungoverned spaces” within Afghanistan over “the next 12-36 months.”
As for taking out terrorists with over-the-horizon attacks from afar, either by drones or traditional bombers, McKenzie admitted: “That’s not going to be easy, and we’ll talk a little bit more about that in the closed session. It will not be easy to do that. It will be possible to do that.”
“No one said that to me”
Nevertheless, Biden declared in a speech marking the end of the Afghanistan war last month that the U.S. has such capabilities, “which means we can strike terrorists and targets without American boots on the ground — or very few, if needed.”
The president’s remarks came on the heels of a U.S. response to the ISIS-K attack in Kabul that left 13 U.S. service members dead.
Of course, that strike has since been confirmed as a botched mission that killed 10 innocent civilians — including a U.S.-allied aid worker and seven children — with a Hellfire missile.
As Foreign Policy reported, Austin, Milley, and McKenzie acknowledged their preference for keeping troops on the ground in Afghanistan to protect Americans and U.S. interests. Those remarks stand in stark contrast to remarks by Biden last month when asked if he had been advised by any military leaders to leave troops in the war-torn nation to maintain stability.
“No,” he replied. “No one said that to me that I can recall.”