The Pentagon was mired in chaos between former President Donald Trump's defeat Nov. 3 and his departure from office Jan. 20, Jonathan Swan reports at Axios, in a long look at Trump's final "war with his generals." After his loss, Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper and named Christopher Miller as acting secretary, and his personnel director Johnny McEntee continued the purge of Pentagon leadership, installing loyalists to "steamroll the generals and extract America from its foreign engagements."
On Nov. 9, the same day Trump appointed Miller, McEntee offered controversial retired Col. Douglas Macgregor a job as Miller's senior adviser, handing him a list of goals for Trump's final weeks in office, Swan reports: "1. Get us out of Afghanistan. 2. Get us out of Iraq and Syria. 3. Complete the withdrawal from Germany. 4. Get us out of Africa." Macgregor said if Trump really wanted that, he had to sign an order to that effect. When Miller got a signed memo two days later, saying all U.S. forces had to be out of Somalia by Dec. 31 and out of Afghanistan by Jan. 15, his reaction, Swan reports, was "What the f--k is this?"
Miller and Trump's national security team pushed back, painting a scenario like helicopters leaving Saigon in a chaotic retreat, and "Trump folded on total withdrawal for the last time as president," Swan reports. Still, "the situation inside the senior levels of the Trump administration was also growing more fraught. The tension between the civilian leadership of the Pentagon and the generals was as bad as it had been in living memory."
In early December, top Trump administration officials decided from National Security Agency intercepts that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen. Mark Milley was undercutting the Pentagon's civilian leadership, "a serious, likely fireable issue," Swan reports. But nobody wanted to bring the intel to Trump, "because you didn't want to get sucked into some weird scandal and be testifying," a source familiar with the discussions told Axios.
Miller, Swan reports, told associated he had his own "three goals for the final weeks of the Trump administration: No. 1: No major war. No. 2: No military coup. No. 3: No troops fighting citizens on the streets." He mostly succeeded. Read more at Axios.