Liz Cheney to Mark Milley: Thank you for standing in the breach against the insurrectionists

Another reminder that few politicians in American history have ever cared less about being reelected than Cheney does right now.

But it’s also an odd comment considering that Milley’s been at pains to say — publicly, at least — that he didn’t do anything unusual during the post-election period while Trump was busy trying to overturn the election. My calls with China’s top general were routine and were known to my civilian superiors in the administration, he said yesterday before a Senate committee. My meeting with subordinates about the nuclear chain of command was proper as the president’s top military advisor, which places me in the chain of communication, he maintained.

Today, at a House hearing, Cheney suggested that he did take extraordinary actions behind the scenes, standing “in the breach” between the stability of the government and the Trump-incited insurrection. Huh.

Maybe Cheney knows more about Milley’s actions than she’s letting on? I’m reminded that the two of them allegedly had a phone call after the riot on January 6 in which she said this:

That f**king guy Jim Jordan. That son of a b*tch… While these maniacs are going through the place, I’m standing in the aisle and he said, “We need to get the ladies away from the aisle. Let me help you.” I smacked his hand away and told him, “Get away from me. You f**king did this.”

She spoke to Milley with unusual candor about the insurrection assuming that report is true. Did he speak with the same candor to her? What actions was he taking behind the scenes, possibly outside the chain of command, to lead Cheney to believe he stood “in the breach”?

I don’t think her comments to Milley were mainly aimed at Milley. I think they were aimed at this guy, an old nemesis, who seized the opportunity this afternoon to cut his next soundbite for Newsmax:

“You spent more time with Bob Woodward on this book than you spent analyzing the very likely prospect that the Afghanistan government was going to fall immediately to the Taliban, didn’t you?” Gaetz asked him, which is an exaggeration but not an entirely cheap shot. Milley admitted yesterday that he’d spoken to reporters behind no fewer than three of the most recent books about Trump’s final year in office, including Bob Woodward. That’s another reason why Cheney’s praise lands awkwardly. The “Milley heroically stood in the breach” narrative is seemingly a creation of Milley himself, at least in part. She’s helping him propagate the image of himself that he wants out there.

He made news today too, although behind the scenes:

In a classified briefing with senators on Tuesday, Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley directly blamed the State Department for a botched evacuation from Afghanistan, saying officials “waited too long” to order the operation out of Kabul’s airport, two sources with direct knowledge of the briefing told Axios…

The State Department is responsible for triggering what’s called a noncombatant evacuation operation (NEO), which is carried out by the military.

[Lloyd] Austin testified publicly that he ordered CENTCOM to begin preparing for a potential NEO weeks after Biden’s announcement in April that the U.S. would withdraw from Afghanistan.

But the State Department, which had been told by former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani that evacuating Afghan allies earlier would destroy morale and lead to the collapse of the government, did not order the mission until Aug. 14 — one day before Kabul fell to the Taliban.

Okay, but it was reported yesterday that the Pentagon wanted a rapid evacuation of Bagram in early July even though the deadline for withdrawal was still months away because they believed that “speed equals safety.” That is, once Biden gave the order for everyone to be out by mid-September, the military thought it would be irresponsible to put U.S. troops at risk by keeping them in the field until the deadline approached. By getting them out months early, they denied the Taliban any chance to take potshots at them as the occupation wound down over the summer.

But how does that decision make sense if the military thought State should have given the order to evacuate civilians much sooner? They needed troops in place to make that evacuation happen (and ended up reinserting thousands of soldiers to administer the airlift out of Kabul’s airport at the end of August). Why take the “speed equals safety” approach by withdrawing early while you’re lobbying State to start the evacuation early too?

The speedy abandonment of Bagram ended up equaling the opposite of safety. That can’t be entirely State’s fault.

I’ll leave you with Gen. Frank McKenzie once again asserting, contra Biden, that the president was advised to keep 2,500 troops in the country to support the Afghan army.