Milley defends calls to Chinese at end of Trump presidency
Top US General Mark Milley appeared before lawmakers on Tuesday for a hearing about the withdrawal from Afghanistan and defended his behavior during the final days of the Trump administration, including a phone conversation with his Chinese counterpart.
According to CNN, Milley said the call with the Chinese official was appropriate and that numerous senior Trump officials knew that it took place.
Milley told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, "I personally informed both Secretary of State [Mike] Pompeo and White House Chief of Staff [Mark] Meadows about the call, among other topics. Soon after that, I attended a meeting with Acting [Defense] Secretary [Chris] Miller, where I briefed him on the call."
Milley, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, and the leader of US Central Command, Gen. Frank McKenzie are all set to testify before Senate lawmakers, marking the first time top military officials will appear before Congress since the full withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan.
In his opening remarks, Austin highlighted the high level of pre-planning that went into the Afghanistan evacuation and the positioning of forces that allowed troops to arrive in Kabul fairly quickly as the evacuation began.
It was Spring when the Pentagon considered the possibility of a non-combatant evacuation and preparing for a number of scenarios, Austin said.
By early June, Austin said he readied forces in the region, including three infantry battalions.
"We wanted to be ready, and we were," he said.
Although the first two days of the evacuation were "difficult," Austin said, US troops reestablished order in 48 hours.
"We are still working to get Americans out who wish to leave," Austin said, though this responsibility has now shifted to the State Department and the interagency, not the military.
Lawmakers have repeatedly criticized the Biden administration for ending the military evacuation and withdrawal from Afghanistan while there were still American citizens who wanted to leave the country. They've also criticized the administration's failure to report exactly how many Americans are left in Afghanistan.
On Monday, a senior State Department official confirmed that the department is working to get out approximately 100 US citizens and Afghan Green Card holders from Afghanistan.
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