Pentagon & Middle East: Defense Secretary Hires Advocate of Total Withdrawal

U.S. troops patrol at an Afghan National Army (ANA) Base in Logar province, Afghanistan, August 7, 2018. (Omar Sobhani/Reuters)

President Trump’s new acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller will employ retired Army Col. Douglas Macgregor as a senior adviser, signaling the administration’s desire to quickly withdraw U.S. troops from the Middle East before the end of the president’s term in January. 

Macgregor’s “decades of military experience will be used to assist in the continued implementation of the President’s national security priorities,” a Pentagon spokesman told Axios. 

In a 2019 interview with Fox News, Macgregor said he would advise the president to move troops out of Afghanistan “as soon as possible.” He added that speaking to the Taliban was “unnecessary” and that the U.S. Embassy should be removed from Kabul.

“The nations in the region have an interest in the place,” he said. “They want to have to deal with it. Let them deal with it.”

The former colonel advised a similar method for Syria, where he said America has no national interest.

Macgregor is a decorated combat veteran who frequently challenges conventional Army leadership and decision-making. He has been criticized for extreme rhetoric about Muslims and undocumented immigrants.

He has rebuked the EU and Germany for being too welcoming to “Muslim invaders” and has advocated for martial law at the U.S.-Mexico border. He has expressed support for the use of deadly force to deter illegal immigration, according to CNN.

“Once it becomes clear that Central Americans AND Mexicans [and other illegals], are NOT going to survive an attempt to enter the US, and will be LUCKY if they are turned back rather than killed in the attempt to violate US sovereign borders, the flow will diminish substantially,” he wrote in a 2016 blog post.

Trump, who has said he wants to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan by Christmas, abruptly fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Monday. 

“I am pleased to announce that Christopher C. Miller, the highly respected Director of the National Counterterrorism Center (unanimously confirmed by the Senate), will be Acting Secretary of Defense, effective immediately,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

“Chris will do a GREAT job! Mark Esper has been terminated. I would like to thank him for his service,” the president added.

Esper’s ouster was at least partially instigated by his reluctance to support total withdrawal from Afghanistan, according to CNN’s Jake Tapper.

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