On Thursday, it seemed like President Joe Biden threw his top generals under the bus following the fatal attacks on U.S. troops when he said that he based his decisions on the advice given to him by the Pentagon.
Biden Says He Followed Military Advice
At a press conference, the president said “major military personnel” gave him the advice to withdraw all U.S. troops from Bagram, America’s largest airbase in Afghanistan. The said base served as the nerve center for all American and NATO operations in the 20 years the U.S. has been in the country. However, some people, including analysts and lawmakers, believed the place was better suited for mass evacuations.
Biden’s remarks contradicted those made by Gen. Mark Milley, the Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, who told reporters back on Aug. 18 that the military was forced to choose between securing the international airport in Kabul or the airbase in Bagram because they lacked personnel.
In the end, they chose Kabul.
When asked about who made the decision, Biden told reporters that with regards to tactical questions related to an evacuation or war, he said he gathers up “all the major military personnel” in Afghanistan, the commanders, as well as the officials at the Pentagon. Then, the president said he asks them for advice about the most efficient way to proceed with the mission.
According to the president, the military concluded that the Bagram airbase “was not much value-added” so they thought it was wiser to choose Kabul. With that, Biden said he followed their recommendation.
American troops withdrew from Bagram airbase on July 2 under the cover of darkness. According to reports, the Afghan forces’ commander was unaware of the withdrawal until two hours later.
On Aug. 15, the Taliban took over the airbase. They released thousands of prisoners who were at the base’s detention facility when they were at it.
Pentagon Press Sec. John Kirby says “thousands” of ISIS-K prisoners were released from the Bagram Airfield prison by the Taliban. The Biden administration decided to abandon Bagram Airfield in the dead of night last month. https://t.co/UujfCrd88N pic.twitter.com/Q2HZlQtMyW
— America Rising (@AmericaRising) August 27, 2021
Earlier in August, Milley was asked about why U.S. troops withdrew, to which he said that securing Bagram needed a significant level of military effort. Because of this, doing so would need external support from the Afghan troops.
He added that at the time, their task was to protect the embassy so that personnel from there can continue to function. Milley added that if they decided to keep both the Bagram airbase and the embassy runny, they would need a large number of military troops, which would have exceeded the number that they had.
Milley then said that, due to this conundrum, they needed to collapse one to secure the other. With that, their decision and proposal were made. He then added that their plan “was all briefed and approved,” implying that Biden signed off on it as the U.S. military’s commander-in-chief.
Milley also told reporters that they had estimated that going out from Kabul or from Bagram had the same level of risk. Because of this, they estimated that going out of Kabul was the better tactical solution given the mission set they had and with military troops down to only around 600 to 700 in number.