During a press briefing on Wednesday, Psaki was asked, “Can you just clarify, when the president said, ‘No, no one said that to me that I can recall’ what he meant.”
“I think you took just a portion of the transcript of his conversation he had with George Stephanopolous,” Psaki responded as she noted that Biden was asked if the U.S. could maintain a stable situation in Afghanistan with 2,500 troops.
She continued, “No one was suggesting that over the long term that we could keep 2,500 troops, and that would be sustainable over the long term.”
Additionally, she noted that Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin testified that they believed the conflict would have escalated and more troops would have to be deployed over time.
“There was not a single option present that did not have risks, major risks, including those that would maintain the status quo of 2,500 troops over the course of the long term,” Psaki added.
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During an August interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopolous, Biden was asked about reports that his military advisers recommended keeping 2,500 troops in Afghanistan.
“No, they didn’t. It was split,” Biden responded.
Stephanopolous pressed, “So no one told [you], your military advisors 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’?”
“No. No one said that to me that I can recall,” the president responded.
However, the nation’s top general’s appeared to contradict Biden during testimony before the Senate on Tuesday.
Gen. Frank McKenzie, who was the overall commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said, “I will give you my honest opinion, and my honest opinion and view shaped my recommendation. I recommended we maintain 2,500 troops in Afghanistan. And I also recommended earlier in the fall of 2020 that we maintain 4,500 at that time. Those were my personal views.”
When asked if Biden heard the recommendation, McKenzie said, “I was present when that discussion occurred. And I’m confident that the president heard all the recommendations and listened to them very thoughtfully.”
Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also testified that he recommended keeping between 2,500 and 3,500 troops in Afghanistan.
Psaki said in a tweet on Tuesday that their comments were not a contradiction, “As [Biden] told ABC, ending the war in Afghanistan was in our national interest. 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, and GEN McKenzie all reiterated,” she added.
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