Prior to and during the troop withdrawal, President Biden has said repeatedly that he was adequately informed on the situations, has received daily briefings, and constantly discussed and listened to the generals on the ground. So what exactly the generals have informed/advised the President on this matter? Did President Biden has followed through with the advice? Or, the chaos is mainly caused by the failure of the US military?

An opinion piece from Republican congressman Chris Stewart has raised a similar question:

"Just days ago, Biden assured the American people that the withdrawal was going as planned, and that the Afghan army was well equipped, prepared and able to defend its country. We now know that everything he said was untrue. Did the generals mislead Biden and the American people, or were they simply — and historically — incompetent?"


Contrary to Joe W's claim - "classified information", here is an article that says "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. https://trumptrainnews.com/2021/08/16/report-top-generals-advised-against-bidens-afghanistan-withdrawal/

I believe there is much more information on this matter, that's why I was asking.


In response to Phillip's questioning on the validity of the above citation (he claims it seemly made up by Trump :), please read this WSJ article, titled "Biden Rebuffed Commanders’ Advice in Decision to Leave Afghanistan" https://www.wsj.com/articles/biden-rebuffed-commanders-advice-in-decision-to-leave-afghanistan-11618696597

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    Unless someone shares the classified information from those briefings we will never know. Also no matter how much information you get it doesn't mean anything if it isn't accurate and you don't know that it isn't.
    – Joe W
    Aug 29 at 17:45
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    @r13 Please write a meta question if you want to challenge moderation issues. Adding more comments when you disagree with the deletion of comments isn't really productive. Comments aren't for extended discussion, feel free to use that chat function for discussing.
    – JJJ
    Aug 29 at 19:30
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    @r13 most users (based on rep) can participate on meta. In any case, the comments under a post on main aren't the venue to discuss meta disputes.
    – JJJ
    Aug 29 at 19:44
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    Your question seems to be about placing blame on Biden when we only have limited information from a couple of sites. My very first response was asking how can we make this judgement if we don't have all the information that Biden was (or wasn't given) to make his decisions from? Not to mention you seem to be criticizing him for honoring a deal made by Trump instead of just abandoning it and making the US look untrustworthy. Has there been some massive mistakes in the withdrawal? Yes there has but what good does assigning blame do it we don't know enough yet.
    – Joe W
    Aug 29 at 20:12
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    @JoeW Whoever decided to end the war can't escape the scrutiny, why Biden should be excluded from taking the responsibility? Especially he is the one to stay the course (withdrawal) free mind, and he is the current commander in chief to execute and see through the operation with his generals. As I've pointed out, how far do you want to place the blames, Obama or George Bush? For now, we can see what Biden has done, but what Trump will do is really everybody's guess, or pure speculation Is that what you want - assign everything (failure) to Trump?! So narrow mind and biased!!!
    – r13
    Aug 29 at 20:21

The question (with all the edits) is confounding some issues... Milley for example said more recently that he didn't think the Afghan army would have collapsed so fast:

Army Gen. Mark Milley, the military's top officer, expressed disbelief in the implosion of the Afghan army in a press conference on Wednesday afternoon [August 18].

"They had the training, the size, the capability to defend their country. This comes down to an issue of will and leadership. And, no, I did not – nor did anyone else – see a collapse of an army that size in 11 days," said Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who did not offer specific numbers of the size of the Afghan military.

So while it's true that some top generals mostly/largely opposed the withdrawal in broad terms, (and the press reported this back in April, so that is not exactly a new revelation) that general opposition to the troop withdrawal is not necessarily the same issue as them predicting the exact scale and timeline at which the present outcome unfolded.

If you want to read more on the general issue of generals disagreeing, you can read my other/longer/heavily-downvoted answer.

  • It is not a surprise that many people do not wish to face the facts, rather they prefer to think the failure/fallout should be placed on Trump who initiated the effort to end the war, and Biden is a "victim" of Trump's ill. However, they forgot most people agree it is a "wise-thing" to do after the extended years of stay without clear aims/goals to achieve, but disagree on "HOW" to end it without leaving it in chaos with the potential of brewing future headaches.
    – r13
    Aug 29 at 21:56

Note: this first part of the answer was written when the question only had the Chris Stewart quote; for more on the generals-disagreeing (WJS) issue, see below the line.

In other news: "Washington can't stop playing the blame game over the US's disastrous Afghanistan withdrawal". My summary:

  • some say it's Biden's sole fault;
  • some say it's the fault of the Trump and Biden administrations for withdrawing (somewhat conveniently forgetting that the US opinions polls favored this for a while);
  • some say it's the incoherent US policy in Afghanistan in the past 20 years;

Etc. I mean if you want quotes:

In April, nearly 70% of Americans supported withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan following a 20-year conflict. This week, that number plummeted to 49% as the American public watched with horror as the Taliban marched into Kabul and desperate Afghans tried to flee the country. [...]

Robert Deitz, who previously served as the general counsel at the NSA and was a top lawyer at the CIA in the late 2000s, also attributed the swift crumbling of the Afghan government to policymakers' unwillingness to heed the intelligence community's warnings. [...] Deitz added that "both the intel and defense communities were aware about the Taliban's growing power over the last number of months. The fast collapse was not a surprise to the intel community. It is the policymakers who were surprised." [...]

Douglas London, the CIA's former counterterrorism chief for South and Southwest Asia London, who retired in 2019, added, "The decision Trump made, and Biden ratified, to rapidly withdraw US forces came despite warnings projecting the outcome we're now witnessing." [...]

"For a lot of us who served over there, the focus is more on just the incredible institutional failures," a former senior defense official told Vanity Fair. "The failure of the US military to build cohesive security forces, that's a 20-year failure. And I think we've got to look at that from a policy perspective and figure out what went wrong over a longer period of time."

As for the "ADDED" issue like the specific generals which opposed the withdrawal... here's what the Atlantic had to say in April:

Who lost Afghanistan? Generations of diplomatic and military historians will debate that question, and there will be blame to share among presidents, members of Congress, generals, and statesmen. Here’s an easier question: Who lost the debate over when to leave Afghanistan? The military did.

[...] As Biden weighed his options, top generals argued strenuously against a complete pullout, pushing for leaving a small force behind.

So it's hardly a (newly discovered) secret that many in the military top brass opposed a pullout, even if that was the majority of the US public opinion/choice, eventually reflect in the political leadership of the present and previous administrations...

And the "general override" isn't new either:

Trump had an unusually frosty relationship with both of his retired generals and the military leadership, even as he described himself as a pro-military president. Flynn was fired within a month of the inauguration in a Russia-related scandal. Kelly was promoted to White House chief of staff, and was happy to work with Trump where they agreed ideologically, but ultimately ended up deeply estranged from the president, who he thought was an unstable nut. Kelly left at the end of 2018, followed closely by Mattis. Mattis, too, had decided that Trump was dangerous, and according to the journalist Bob Woodward, he sometimes just refused to obey orders from Trump, including a demand for a strike against Syria’s president. But Mattis eventually resigned when Trump insisted on withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria, a decision with which the defense secretary, and most generals, vehemently disagreed. The brass also hated Trump’s claim that he’d withdraw troops from Afghanistan. [...]

General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was reportedly in favor of keeping special operators on the ground in Afghanistan, in what has become the military’s favorite solution to every problem in recent years, as Mark Bowden reported in this month’s issue of The Atlantic. But when Milley was overruled, he got in line, and a spokesperson told Politico that “senior officers were afforded ample opportunity to give advice.”

The only difference may have been that Biden didn't fire generals (who disagreed with thim) left and right... And retired generals have been even more scathing of the Afghanistan withdrawal as they don't have to shut up to keep their job anymore...

The loudest protests have come from people such as David Petraeus, the retired general and former CIA director. “Ending U.S. involvement in an endless war doesn’t end the endless war,” he said Wednesday on a conference call, Defense One reported. “It just ends our involvement. And I fear that this war is going to get worse.” It’s probably no coincidence that Petraeus’s zenith came at a time when presidents of both parties deferred to top generals like him.

And as the US elections were unflooding in Nov 2020, NATO's secretary general went public with such criticism:

Amid reports that defeated U.S. President Donald Trump is planning a major withdrawal of forces from Afghanistan, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warned Tuesday against a hasty pullout, saying “the price for leaving too soon or in an uncoordinated way could be very high.” [...]

In his statement, Stoltenberg emphasized that NATO had planned to keep troops in Afghanistan to train, advise and assist Afghan security forces through 2024, even with expected, continuing U.S. reductions in forces.

Note that Stoltenberg is a (Norwegian) civilian/politician, but he surely had his [NATO] military advisers.

Going slightly further back, a similar situation (in the sense of generals registering their opposition) occured with Trump's withdrawal from Syria. It's honestly hard to think when generals didn't object to something like that, even during Obama's terms around issues of political promises of no "boots on the ground" [in Syria], etc.

  • Yes, people are passing the blame around but I am not sure how this answers the question.
    – Joe W
    Aug 29 at 19:22
  • @JoeW: the Q was edited in the meantime to add something more specific than the Stewart quote, I'll edit my answer in response a bit later. Basically, the president's advisers seldom all give the same advice. It's easy to quote one side of that and give the impression he went all alone. (I remember when Trump said he just didn't want to meet the US general who leading US forces in Afghanistan. Probably due to issues like this.)
    – Fizz
    Aug 29 at 19:23
  • The question now seems nothing more than an attack on Biden as it is complaining that he is honoring a deal that Trump made.
    – Joe W
    Aug 29 at 19:26

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