President Joe Biden now insists his top military commanders never advised him to keep a contingent of troops in Afghanistan, despite multiple reports claiming the contrary.
The word clash comes as the militant Taliban regime wrests control over Afghanistan with alarming speed, leaving Afghan residents fearful for their lives and scores of American citizens trapped in the nation's capital awaiting evacuation.
What are the details?
During an interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos on Wednesday, Biden repeatedly denied claims that he ignored advice from top military brass to maintain some level of military presence in the country.
Here's the transcript of the relevant portion of the interview:
STEPHANOPOULOS: But your top military advisers warned against withdrawing on this timeline. They wanted you to keep about 2,500 troops.
BIDEN: No, they didn't. It was split. Tha — that wasn't true. That wasn't true.
STEPHANOPOULOS: They didn't tell you that they wanted troops to stay?
BIDEN: No. Not at — not in terms of whether we were going to get out in a timeframe all troops. They didn't argue against that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: 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"?
BIDEN: No. No one said that to me that I can recall.
In the aftermath of the Taliban takeover, Biden has defended his decision to go through with a foreshadowed total withdrawal by noting that "chaos" was inevitable.
What's the background?
But Biden's claims fly in the face of multiple reports claiming otherwise, as the resulting fiasco in Afghanistan has left many demanding answers on how the Biden administration was so ill-prepared.
The Wall Street Journal first reported in April — before reiterating this week — that Biden "overruled" top military brass in ordering the total withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, an event that directly preceded the Taliban's rapid takeover of the Middle Eastern country.
Here's how the Journal put it:
In contrast to the numerous Trump policies he reversed, he opted to carry out Mr. Trump's deal with the Taliban instead of trying to renegotiate it. In so doing, he overruled his top military commanders: Gen. Frank McKenzie, the commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East; Gen. Austin Scott Miller, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan; and Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Citing the risks of removing American forces to Afghan security and the U.S. Embassy, they recommended that the U.S. keep 2,500 troops in Afghanistan while stepping up diplomacy to try to cement a peace agreement.
Politico added at the time that Vice President Kamala Harris played a "key role" in the withdrawal decision.
The conflicting accounts are the latest controversy for the Biden administration amid a rapidly deteriorating situation in Afghanistan that has garnered criticism and outrage from both sides of the aisle.
Republican scrutiny of Biden's handling of the Afghanistan withdrawal was to be expected. But the crisis has also generated a surprising level of backlash from members of the president's own party.
Democrats turned on the Biden administration this week, vowing to launch investigations into the withdrawal and calling the situation a "disaster" and a "catastrophe."