General Milley Makes Shocking Admission To Senate

America’s top military officer conceded this week it is “possible” the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan contributed to Russia’s decision to invade Ukraine — an argument Republicans have made for weeks.

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Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley made the comments during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Thursday. Gen. Tod Wolters, the head of U.S. European Command, said last week that Vladimir Putin may have been attempting to take advantage of potential cracks in NATO resulting from post-Afghanistan conditions.

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When pressed by Sen. Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican, on the Afghanistan withdrawal and whether it played a part in Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine, Milley replied: “From the intelligence I’ve read, it’s not clear. I think it certainly is possible, but I also know that Putin had aims on Ukraine long before the end of the war in Afghanistan.”

Blackburn cut him off: “I think we all know that. So he saw his opening, right?”

“Well, the forces were building up — they began to build up their force in September, October,” Milley replied. “So I think in order to do that, they would’ve had to have the plans and approval long before September, October.”

The Taliban rapidly took over following a chaotic U.S. military withdrawal last year, and an August suicide bombing at the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, by the Islamic State killed 13 U.S. service members during evacuation efforts at the airport, with the Taliban providing security outside. Republicans have repeatedly connected the disastrous withdrawal to the current situation in Ukraine.

Russian forces engaged in two major force buildups on the Ukrainian border in 2021 — first in the spring of 2021 and then in the fall in the months after the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan. The second buildup led to the invasion.

Milley reportedly told Congress behind closed doors in early February that Kyiv could be conquered by Russia within 72 hours of a full-scale invasion.

In comparison, both Milley and President Joe Biden, as well as the rest of the administration, appeared to overestimate the strength and the willpower of the Afghan army ahead of the Taliban’s takeover.

Wolters, the supreme allied commander for Europe, testified last month in front of the House Armed Services Committee, with Rep. Jim Banks, an Indiana Republican, asking why Putin decided to invade on Feb. 24 rather than some other time since 2014.

“I think he felt like he had the popular support of the citizens of Russia,” Wolters said. “I also felt like he was attempting to take advantage of fissures that could have appeared in NATO as a result of the post-Afghanistan environment. And I also think that it has to do with his age and his efficacy.”

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The general said: “All those combined together put him in a position to where he elected to go at this time, but the overriding variable in my view is the fact that he believes that he has popular support with his citizens.”

The Russians waited until just a few days after the Beijing Olympics finished to attack Ukraine.

On the day of Putin’s invasion, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said: “I think the precipitous withdrawal from Afghanistan in August was a signal, to Putin and maybe to Chinese President Xi as well, that America was in retreat, that America could not be depended upon, and was an invitation to the autocrats of the world that maybe this was a good time to make a move.”

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The invasion of Ukraine came after weeks of warnings by the U.S. intelligence community that Putin was likely to invade. Biden indicated in January he believed a Russian victory in Ukraine would essentially be certain.

Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier admitted last month that he had botched the assessment of Ukraine’s will to fight, saying: “My view was that, based on a variety of factors, that the Ukrainians were not as ready as I thought they should be. Therefore, I questioned their will to fight. That was a bad assessment on my part because they have fought bravely and honorably.”