Donald Trump originally packed his administration with retired generals and bragged about “my generals.”
Like so many of Trump’s favored aides, the generals found loyalty is a one-way street with the president who demands it but offers nothing in return.
Latest example: Retired four-star Marine general Jim Mattis, the last remaining member of the once-large “my generals” group of aides to Trump.
As Defense Secretary, Mattis runs the Pentagon and the armed forces of the United States — at least in title.
Trump ignored Mattis’ advice and warnings that the president’s sudden pull out of Syria would lead to chaos and serious problems for the United States but the man with no prior government or military experience ignored him.
Mattis, in recent months, found himself left out of meetings and discussions with Trump on national security issues. Mattis opposed Trump’s decision to deploy troops to America’s border with Mexico.
Trump used to brag about his cadre of retired military brass. He said it proved he was serious about a get-tough national security approach.
But all but Mattis is either gone or on the way out, including former national security advisers Michael Flynn and H.R. McMaster and Chief of Staff John Kelly.
Mattis may be gone soon. He rarely meets with Trump — a change from his early days in the post — and seldom attends key white house meetings.
But he and others within the military says America’s job in Syria is “far from done.”
“We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there,” Trump said in his surprise announcement for withdrawal.
Says Pentagon Dana W. White: “The coalition has liberated the ISIS-held territory, bt the campaign against ISIS is not over.”
Administration special envoy on Islamic State affairs, Brett McGurk, adds: “It would be reckless if we were just to say, ‘Well, the physical caliphate is defeated, so we can just leave now. I think anyone who’s looked at a conflict like this would agree with that.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton say the goal in Syria “is broader than simply countering the Islamic State.”
Republican members of Congress reacted with anger when they learned about Trump’s decision — not from him but in news reports.
“I don’t know what it is. I haven’t been briefed. I am completely blindsided, and I think there will be a lot of bipartisan concern,” responded Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.). ““ISIS has been dealt a severe blow but are not defeated. If there has been a decision to withdraw our forces in Syria, the likelihood of their return goes up dramatically.”
At a Republican lunch Wednesday, Senators angrily confronted Vice President Mike Pence and demanded to know why they were left in the dark. Pence appeared unaware of the withdrawal, announced by Trump in a Twitter tweet.
“We did not appreciate reading about this decision in the paper,” Graham told Pence.
Trump, however, did get public support from Russian president Vladimir Putin, who called the withdrawal “the right decision.”
“Donald’s right, and I agree with him,” Putin said.
Given Trump’s embrace of Russia and its dictator, that may have been the only approval he wanted.
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