Milley's new Ukraine war prediction is stark departure from early forecast of '72 hour' takeover

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Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley predicted in early February that a Russian invasion of Ukraine could take Kyiv in just “72 hours,” a far cry from the monthlong conflict Russia and Ukraine are now engaged in.

Milley delivered the dire prediction for Ukraine to Congress during closed hearings on Feb. 2 and Feb. 3, saying Ukraine would likely lose 15,000 troops compared to Russia’s 4,000. Milley arrived to Congress to deliver another prediction Tuesday, this time saying the war in Ukraine could last “years.”

Rep. Bill Keating, D-Mass., pressed Milley on what he now thought the timeline of the conflict would be.

“It’s a bit early, still,” Milley responded. “Even though we’re a month-plus into the war, there is much of the ground war left in Ukraine. But I do think this is a very protracted conflict, and I think it’s at least measured in years. I don’t know about a decade, but at least years for sure.”

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley during a House Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill on Sept. 29, 2021 in Washington, D.C.  (Olivier Douliery – Pool/Getty Images)

Milley made the revised prediction during testimony before the House Armed Services committee. Members of Congress pressed Milley on what the U.S. could have done to deter Russian President Vladimir Putin from invading Ukraine.

“Candidly, short of the commitment of U.S. forces into Ukraine proper, I am not sure he was deterrable,” Milley testified. 

“This has been a long-term objective of his that goes back years,” he added. “I think the idea of deterring Putin from invading Ukraine — deterring him by the United States — would have required the use of US military forces and would have risked armed conflict with Russia, which I wouldn’t advise.”

People watch as smoke rises in the air after shelling in Odesa, Ukraine, Sunday, April 3, 2022. 
(AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

The off-base predictions echo the inaccuracy of the predictions from President Biden’s administration ahead of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan last year. Two days before Kabul fell to the Taliban, administration officials were predicting that Afghan security forces would fend off the extremist group until at least late fall 2021.

“So the question now is, where do they go from here? The jury is still out.  But the likelihood there’s going to be the Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely,” Biden stated July 8, a month before Kabul fell.

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