Trump installs loyalists at the Pentagon and may be preparing for a rushed exit from Afghanistan

Donald Trump has been mostly out of the public eye since the presidential race was called for Joe Biden last weekend. He’s been holed up in the White House, rage-tweeting unsubstantiated claims of election fraud.

He’s also been shaking up the Pentagon. He fired Secretary of Defense Mark Esper on Monday and put loyalists in other leadership positions.

“The president is actually breaking the law,” says Aaron O’Connell, a National Security Council member during the Obama administration. “The law is very clear on succession in the Department of Defense, and if the secretary of defense steps down or is fired, the deputy secretary of defense becomes the acting secretary of defense. It’s black and white in the law. And the president seems to be ignoring that.”

Trump still wants to make good on a campaign promise to pull U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by Christmas. Doing so could set up a standoff with top generals like Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It’s all raising a lot of national security concerns.



  • Aaron O’Connell - member of the National Security Council during the Obama administration; professor of history at the University of Texas at Austin