A little earlier in the week, President Trump fired a handful of senior Defense Department officials (see Left All in a Tizzy as Trump Fires Top Echelon of Department of Defense). The exact reason is unknown, but my speculation and the speculation of several others is that this is tied to the slow-rolling of President Trump’s order to remove US troops from Afghanistan at an expedited pace. Throughout his presidency, President Trump has tried to end the “Forever War” we have going on in Southwest Asia and has had precious little success.
Now, in the last days of the first Trump administration, we are finding out that not only were President Trump’s instructions ignored, but he was actually lied to by senior officials.
Four years after signing the now-infamous “Never Trump” letter condemning then-presidential candidate Donald Trump as a danger to America, retiring diplomat Jim Jeffrey is recommending that the incoming Biden administration stick with Trump’s foreign policy in the Middle East.
But even as he praises the president’s support of what he describes as a successful “realpolitik” approach to the region, he acknowledges that his team routinely misled senior leaders about troop levels in Syria.
“We were always playing shell games to not make clear to our leadership how many troops we had there,” Jeffrey said in an interview. The actual number of troops in northeast Syria is “a lot more than” the roughly two hundred troops Trump initially agreed to leave there in 2019.
Trump’s abruptly-announced withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria remains perhaps the single-most controversial foreign policy move during his first years in office, and for Jeffrey, “the most controversial thing in my fifty years in government.” The order, first handed down in December 2018, led to the resignation of former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. It catapulted Jeffrey, then Trump’s special envoy for Syria, into the role of special envoy in the counter-ISIS fight when it sparked the protest resignation of his predecessor, Brett McGurk.
For Jeffrey, the incident was far less cut-and-dry — but it is ultimately a success story that ended with U.S. troops still operating in Syria, denying Russian and Syrian territorial gains and preventing ISIS remnants from reconstituting.
US officials have been lying to Trump – and the American people – about the true number of US troops in Syria in order to deter him from withdrawing them, according to the outgoing Syria envoy. Trump thinks it’s 200 😂😂. By @KatieBoWill https://t.co/P6W9s3Qwvs
— Liz Sly (@LizSly) November 13, 2020
In #TheMadmanTheory, senior DOD officials told me how they fooled Trump into leaving troops on the ground:
“If you look at his tweets, they were definitive about leaving. And then we didn’t leave. And now we haven’t left, we’re still there, and that’s a good thing.” https://t.co/vo3HBxb7tg
— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) November 13, 2020
There is a lot to unpack here. Despite President Trump’s antipathy towards the Deep State, in the end, he acquiesced in not only tacitly agreeing to its role in government but allowed some key positions to be filled by people who were totally opposed to his policies and loathed him personally. This guy is one of them. The Ukraine ambassador who was up to her eyebrows in Coup Attempt #2, the Impeachment, was another. Despite his penchant for firing people, President Trump seems to have been way, way too cautious in punting bureaucrats.
The idea that a senior official would actively lie to the Secretary of State and the President in order to carry out their personal foreign policy is incredible. It shows the degree to which the “interagency process” that deity ferociously fellated by the rotund Alexander Vindman as his excuse for betraying his oath and violating his orders to divulge a presidential conversation to someone not authorized access is actually what sets US foreign policy. That, my friends, is the essence of the Deep State. When people believe that institutional “equities” take precedence over the orders of elected officials, we no longer have a republic. The people that engaged in that activity are not heroes; they are the worst sort of scum who have blood on their hands because they refused to follow the US Constitution.
I hope that President Trump is able, with the new leadership team in the Pentagon, to impose his will and reduce our troop levels in two wars where there is no longer any hint of a national interest…no, f***ing with Vladimir Putin is not actually a valid excuse to kill young Americans. It also serves as an object lesson to President Trump and all future Republican presidents that the bureaucracy is the real enemy and should be treated as such.