Esper Opposed Afghanistan Withdrawal Before He Was Fired
Nov. 14, 2020 (EIRNS)—The Washington Post reported last night that just before President Donald Trump fired him, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper sent a memo to the White House arguing that the troops should not be pulled out of Afghanistan by Christmas as Trump had promised before the election. According to the Post account, citing anonymous sources, Esper expressed concerns about additional cuts. Conditions on the ground were not yet right, Esper wrote, citing the ongoing violence, possible dangers to the remaining troops in the event of a rapid pullout, potential damage to alliances and apprehension about undercutting the negotiations.
One former senior White House official said it is not possible for the United States to remove all troops “without crushing the coalition there.” “We can get down to maybe 4,500,” the official said. “But we cannot be at zero.”
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who has advocated a swift and total withdrawal, reminded everyone who is the chief executive. “Reminder to those saying withdrawing troops may cause a ‘clash’ with Generals/Pentagon: there is only one Commander in Chief, it is @realDonaldTrump and when he orders the troops out of Afghanistan, the only proper answer is ‘Yes sir,’ ” he tweeted.
Arnold Punaro, a retired Marine major general and former staff director on the Senate Armed Services Committee pointed out that, in fact, Trump has the executive authority to order a withdrawal. “What can Presidents do without the Congress? They can deploy troops and they can remove troops,” Punaro said, reported Defense News, echoing Rand Paul. “If the President decides to complete what’s said about a withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and the Middle East, he certainly has ample time to enforce that order, send that to the acting Secretary of Defense, who would send that to the combatant commanders to make that happen.”
Trump “felt like he has been slow-walked ever since he came into office,” one administration official told The New Yorker’s Dexter Filkins, referring to Afghanistan. “Now with Esper gone, he can do it.”