The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, has responded internally to escalating demands for his resignation or firing in the wake of the Afghanistan military disaster, Pentagon sources tell Becker News.
General Milley has responded to these demands, which include a letter issued by nearly 90 retired generals and admirals, by saying that “he will not be fired nor will he quit,” indicating that he has the full backing of the White House.
News of the polarizing general’s refusal to resign comes amid multiple Pentagon sources telling Becker News that there has been a “lockdown” on all Requests for Information on the military withdrawal from Afghanistan.
“The White House Counsel (via the National Security Council’s legal department) told multiple federal agencies and departments not to respond to Afghanistan correspondence, with more guidance to follow,” multiple Pentagon sources independently confirm.
The direct order on “ghosting” RFIs (Requests for Information) is “not exceptionally rare,” but unheard of in retrograde, with many members searching for constituents, the source provides on background.
Calls for General Mark Milley to resign are not only growing in light of the catastrophic execution of the military withdrawal, but due to the role he played in a series of recently revealed phone calls to now-exiled President Ashraf Ghani on July 23.
The transcript of the first phone call released by Reuters shows U.S. President Joe Biden pressured the former Afghan president to deceive the international community on the nation’s precarious situation versus the Taliban. The transcript was leaked to Reuters on condition of anonymity.
“Hey look, I want to make it clear that I am not a military man any more than you are, but I have been meeting with our Pentagon folks, and our national security people, as you have with ours and yours, and as you know and I need not tell you the perception around the world and in parts of Afghanistan, I believe, is that things aren’t going well in terms of the fight against the Taliban,” President Biden said.
“And there’s a need, whether it is true or not, there is a need to project a different picture,” Biden added.
The claims made by President Biden on his call with former President Ghani also indicate that he received poor military counsel.
“You clearly have the best military,” Biden told Ghani. “You have 300,000 well-armed forces versus 70-80,000 and they’re clearly capable of fighting well.” That assumption would prove to be a colossal mistake.
On a follow-up phone call between General Milley and Ashraf Ghani, the former Afghan president was further pressured to express a misleading assessment of Afghanistan’s dangerous situation.
“In a follow-up call later that day that did not include the U.S. president, Biden’s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, General Mark Milley and U.S. Central Command commander General Frank McKenzie spoke to Ghani. Reuters also obtained a transcript of that call,” Reuters reported.
“In this call, too, an area of focus was the global perception of events on the ground in Afghanistan,” the report added. “Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Ghani ‘the perception in the United States, in Europe and the media sort of thing is a narrative of Taliban momentum, and a narrative of Taliban victory. And we need to collectively demonstrate and try to turn that perception, that narrative around’.”
While the “buck stops” with the United States president, it is clear from the record that the Commander-in-Chief received mixed signals and disastrous advice on the Afghanistan situation.
The military advice given to President Biden was detailed in a Wall Street Journal article published on August 17.
“The president’s top generals, including Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley, urged Mr. Biden to keep a force of about 2,500 troops, the size he inherited, while seeking a peace agreement between warring Afghan factions, to help maintain stability,” the Wall Street Journal reported.
However, on June 23, both Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, and the Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, appeared before House Armed Services Committee hearing on the president’s budget. Selected transcripts from the hearing show how both the Pentagon chief and the top military commander painted a picture of the Afghanistan situation that was far from the reality on the ground.
“My concern is about time because where we sit right now, that capability and the dangers and risks of doing it are not going to be static,” Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) asked. “That risk is not lessening. Is it true, Secretary Austin, that Taliban continue to make territorial gains, that provincial capitals continue to fall, and that freedom of navigation and the outer ring road continues to deteriorate?”
“The Taliban have made incremental gains throughout,” Secretary of Defense Austin replied. “Those gains have increased most recently. In terms of provincial capitals, I think you heard General Milley’s assessment early on that actually none of the provincial capitals have fallen. They have made some gains where they’ve surrounded some of the provincial capitals.”
“Part of that, General Milley, is it true that we don’t yet have an agreement with Turkey or any other NATO ally with regard to the security of the Kabul airport?” Gallagher asked.
“Written agreement, no. We’re having a meeting this week. I think we’re pretty much at the final piece,” Milley said. The Kabul airport would be the location of a deadly series of suicide bombings that led to the deaths of 13 U.S. service members, as Becker News first reported.
In a separate exchange, General Milley discusses the situation with Bagram Air Base. The Biden administration ceding the critical air support base during the military withdrawal and civilian evacuation arguably led to operational issues. The pre-emptive Predator drone strike carried out against an incoming suicide bomb attack was initially launched from the UAE instead of Bagram Air Base, which is operationally a 5-6 hour difference. The drone strike was reported to have killed ten members of a family, including seven children.
“Is it true that we’re turning over control of Bagram to the Afghans?” Rep. Gallagher asked at another point in the hearing.
“That is the plan. That’s correct,’ General Milley replied.
“Okay. So understanding that situation, the deteriorating security situation, the assessments, the lack of navigation and the fact that these SIV applicants would actually need to make it to Kabul or a population center to be evacuated, and they also need to do in-person vetting in Kabul to qualify, is it fair to say that as time continues to progress that it becomes harder and more risky to conduct an evacuation?” Gallagher asked.
“I think that’s a fair statement, Congressmen,” Milley replied.
General Mark Milley is thus under fire for his demonstrable lack of military operational judgment, and not merely because of his “Woke” politics, as some lawmakers have characterized it. The general not only oversaw the worst foreign policy humiliation in modern U.S. history, but he fed conspiracy theories about former President Donald Trump participating in a “coup” attempt during one of the most volatile moments in recent U.S. domestic politics. The Federal Bureau of Investigation would find nothing to corroborate such claims against the former sitting President of the United States.
Thus, if the President of the United States wants to demonstrate a shred of accountability over the Afghanistan military withdrawal debacle, which led unnecessarily to the deaths of 13 U.S. service members, he knows where to begin.
OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion.