When asked by ABC’s George Stephanopoulous whether “top military advisers warned against withdrawing on this timeline,” Biden responded, “No, they didn’t.”
To clarify, Stephanopoulous asked, “So no one told — your military advisers did not tell you, ‘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’?” To which Biden said, “No one said that to me that I can recall.”
Other top administration officials also pushed for a slower withdrawal, according to reporting from journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa.
This debate spilled into Tuesday’s White House press briefing, where press secretary Jen Psaki said a “range of viewpoints” had been presented to Biden from his military advisers on how to proceed in Afghanistan, but ultimately it was up to the President to make strategic decisions.
Psaki also emphasized that none of Biden’s advisers recommended a long-term troop presence.
“I would note today in the testimony that was given by Secretary Austin, by General Milley, they made clear, Secretary Austin specifically said, 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,” Psaki said.
“It was also clear, and clear to him, that that would not be a long-standing recommendation, that there would need to be an escalation, an increase in troop numbers, it would also need, it would also mean war with the Taliban and it would also mean the potential loss of casualties. The President was just not willing to make that decision. He didn’t think it was in our, the interest of the American people or the interests of, of our troops,” she continued.
“There was no one who said five years from now we could have 2,500 troops and that would be sustainable,” Psaki said. “And I think that’s important for people to know and to understand.”