White House confirms Biden turned down generals' advice to keep 2,500 troops in Afghanistan
White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed Tuesday that President Joe Biden turned down advice from two of his top military advisers about keeping military assets in Afghanistan during the U.S. troop withdrawal in August.
"As POTUS told ABC, ending the war in Afghanistan was in our national interest," Psaki tweeted. "He said advice was split, but consensus of top military advisors was 2500 troops staying meant escalation due to deal by the previous admin. [Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin], the Chairman [of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley], and [U.S. Central Command Commander Gen. Frank McKenzie] all reiterated."
The White House's top spokesperson expanded on her initial statement at Thursday's press briefing.
"These conversations are about a range of options about what the risk assessments are about," she said. "Of course, there are individuals who come forward with a range of recommendations on what the right path forward looks."
Psaki declined to elaborate on the "private conversations" the president had with his advisers but reiterated that "regardless of the advice, it’s his decision. He’s the commander in chief. He’s the president. He makes decisions about that what’s in the national interest, and he believed we should end the war."
She went so far as to say that a "core part of democracy" is the ability for advisers to "so openly and candidly offer advice."
"The president values the candid advice of the secretary of the joint chiefs and of his military advisers, as well as members of his national security team," Psaki said. "It doesn’t mean he agrees always with every component in every element of that advice, but he welcomes the candor, he welcomes the debates, and that’s the kind of president that he can [and] will continue to be."
Psaki's comments came just hours after Milley and McKenzie said in congressional testimony that they gave Biden recommendations that the U.S. maintain a troop presence on 2,500 strong to prevent the collapse of Afghan security forces and the government.
The pair added that the topic was again discussed on Aug. 25, one day before the Kabul airport suicide bombings, at which time the president's advisers reached a consensus that keeping troops in the country would lead to an escalation in violence.
Those comments appeared to run contrary to an interview Biden gave to ABC following the withdrawal, where he told George Stephanopoulos that none of his top military advisers gave any advice contrary to proceeding with his planned troop withdrawal, originally scheduled to be completed by Sept. 11 before the White House moved it up to Aug. 30.
In that interview, Stephanopoulos repeatedly pressed Biden about media leaks claiming the Pentagon was warning the president against pulling out all troops.
"No, they didn't. It was split. That wasn't true. That wasn't true," Biden said at one point. "No. No one said that to me that I can recall."
You can watch Biden's ABC interview here .
This is a developing story and will be updated with more information as it becomes available.
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