Jake Sullivan, national security adviser to President Joe Biden, seemingly exposed yet another lie that Biden offered America on the Afghanistan crisis, on whether the Pentagon recommended leaving a small force of American troops in Afghanistan for security purposes.
What is the background?
During an interview with ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos last week, Biden denied multiple media reports that alleged he "overruled" top military commanders.
"No, they didn't. It was split. That wasn't true," Biden said of a report from the Wall Street Journal. When pressed by Stephanopoulos on whether he ignored their advice, Biden again said, "No."
The WSJ reported in April that Biden ignored the advice of his military commanders when he authorized the full withdrawal of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
From the WSJ:
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.
What did Sullivan say?
During an interview on NBC's "Meet The Press," host Chuck Todd asked Sullivan why the U.S. did not maintain a small presence in Afghanistan like top military commanders reportedly advised.
The question followed an earlier inquiry in which Todd asked why Bagram Air Base — a massive air base in eastern Afghanistan — was closed before all American and Afghan allies were evacuated from Afghanistan. Sullivan told Todd the base was closed because military and national security advisers said the base could be shut down.
"So, you followed the military advice on closing Bagram. But the same military advisers were telling you to keep a force on the ground. They were — they told you not to pursue this withdrawal agreement with the Taliban, correct?" Todd asked.
Sullivan responded by explaining that decision — to fully withdrawal U.S. troops from Afghanistan — ultimately rested on Biden's shoulders, no matter what military commanders recommended.
"There are strategic judgments that a president makes. And there are tactical judgments that you give absolute premium to the commanders on the ground to make," Sullivan began. "If a commander on the ground says, 'I need this resource or this move to accomplish my mission or keep my people safe,' you weigh that very heavily."
"But when it comes to the fundamental question of whether the United States should remain in a civil war in Afghanistan with American men and women fighting and dying for a third decade, that is a presidential call, not a call by anyone at the Pentagon or the State Department or the intelligence community," Sullivan added.
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