Former Pentagon official: It's 'very telling' Trump didn't know his own anti-ISIS strategist
After President Donald Trump unexpected announced a strategy-free withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria, Brett McGurk, a longtime national security official acting as the president's special envoy to the coalition against ISIS, resigned his post.
Trump, with characteristic bravado, took to Twitter on Saturday to declare good riddance, calling McGurk a "grandstander" and saying he does not even know who he is:
Brett McGurk, who I do not know, was appointed by President Obama in 2015. Was supposed to leave in February but he… https://t.co/WihasoF1ss— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump) 1545529703
Assistant Secretary of Defense Derek Chollet told the Washington Post that that outburst speaks volumes:
"George W. Bush and Barack Obama knew and respected Brett and considered him one of their most important advisers," Chollet said. Trump has shown evidence of disengagement from policy and a disregard for expertise, he said, "and it's very telling that Donald Trump claims to have never heard of him."
McGurk was an architect of both the Iraq surge and the subsequent negotiation to withdraw troops from the nation, and he has been integral to the U.S. strategy to contain ISIS forces in the region. It seems supremely unlikely that Trump never met this man in all of his national security meetings — and if he did not, it has disturbing implications for how disengaged the president is from our defense policy.
This could explain, for instance, why Trump has confidently proclaimed ISIS is already defeated in Syria, while McGurk has warned that pushing ISIS out of all of their physical territory "will not be the end" of the terrorist group, and that fully eliminating them will take years.
Of course, there is another possibility: that Trump does know who McGurk is, but is lying to try to minimize the humiliation of his relationship with him in the public eye. This is a longtime technique of Trump, who has falsely claimed he does not know about KKK grand wizard David Duke, "Celebrity Apprentice" contestant Lil Jon, or his own acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker.
Either possibility, at the end of the day, is not a good look for the man tasked with the goal of commanding our armed forces and keeping our nation safe.