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After Election Defeat, Trump Ordered January 15 Withdrawal from Afghanistan; Pentagon Feared Rogue Military Action

For all of you who think President Joe Biden pulled our troops out of Afghanistan too quickly, consider what would have happened if the unhinged guy who preceded him had had his way. According to CNN’s early read of Bob Woodward and Robert Costa’s imminent book Peril, Donald Trump signed a secret memo on November 11, right after his election loss, to withdraw our military from Afghanistan on January 15, to ensure that he’d get the credit:

Just eight days after the 2020 election, then-President Donald Trump was so determined to end the war in Afghanistan during his presidency that he secretly signed a memo to withdraw all troops by January 15, 2021, according to a new book, “Peril,” from journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa.

The November 11 memo, according to the authors, had been secretly drafted by two Trump loyalists and never went through the normal process for a military directive — the secretary of defense, national security adviser and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs had all never seen it. Unpredictable, impulsive, Trump had done an end run around his whole national security team [Jamie Gangel, Jeremy Herb, and Elizabeth Stuart, “New Woodward/Costa Book: Trump Secret Memo Ordering Withdrawal from Afghanistan Blindsided National Security Team,” CNN, 2021.09.14].

The only reason we didn’t withdraw in January was that Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Mark Milley, acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller, and Miller’s chief of staff Kash Patel went straight to the White House to ask National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien what the heck was going on:

“How did this happen?” Milley asked O’Brien, according to the book. “Was there any process here at all? How does a president do this?”

O’Brien looked at the memo and said, “I have no idea,” according to the authors.

“What do you mean you have no idea? You’re the national security adviser to the President?” Milley responded. “And the secretary of defense didn’t know about this? And the chief of staff to the secretary of defense didn’t know about this? The chairman didn’t know. How the hell does this happen?”

O’Brien took the memo and left. While the officials had briefly debated whether the memo could be a forgery, Trump confirmed to O’Brien that he had signed it.

“Mr. President, you’ve got to have a meeting with the principals,” O’Brien told Trump, according to the book, which Trump agreed to do and the directive was withdrawn [Gangel, Herb, and Stuart, 2021.09.14].

Chairman Milley was so rattled by Trump’s impulsive withdrawal order, drafted and issued without consultation with any top military or national security officials, that he thought Trump would launch a rogue military strike to help him cling to power. Milley called his own secret meeting at the Pentagon to forestall that dread possibility:

“You never know what a president’s trigger point is,” Milley told his senior staff, according to the book.

In response, Milley took extraordinary action, and called a secret meeting in his Pentagon office on January 8 to review the process for military action, including launching nuclear weapons. Speaking to senior military officials in charge of the National Military Command Center, the Pentagon’s war room, Milley instructed them not to take orders from anyone unless he was involved.

“No matter what you are told, you do the procedure. You do the process. And I’m part of that procedure,” Milley told the officers, according to the book. He then went around the room, looked each officer in the eye, and asked them to verbally confirm they understood.

“Got it?” Milley asked, according to the book.

“Yes, sir.”

‘Milley considered it an oath,’ the authors write [Jamie Gangel, Jeremy Herb, and Elizabeth Stuart, “Woodward/Cost Book: Worried Trump Could ‘Go Rogue,’ Milley Took Secret Action to Protect Nuclear Weapons,” CNN, 2021.09.14].

The previous occupant of the White House was so clearly unstable, so clearly willing to endanger American interests for his own political gain, that the Chairman of the joint Chiefs of Staff and the soldiers around him were willing to question Presidential orders. That’s not fake news; that’s the very real instability and incompetence of the guy we kicked out of the White House this year and had better never let back in.

A Twitter friend says General Milley committed treason. But is it treason to question the orders of an unstable commander-in-chief?


  1. kurtz 2021-09-15 08:36

    During the American invasion of Afghanistan NPR was my goto source for news on the ground and Sarah Chayes was there. We spent a trillion dollars to silence Usama Bin Laden, not for revenge but because he knew too much. In 2011 a former Bush henchman enjoyed political asylum in Montana where he also owned property.

    But, in late June of this year an advance contingent of the Rainbow Family of Living Light who scoped out Forest Road 76 for their gathering on the Carson National Forest in Taos County knelt and prayed for world peace so on June 29 war criminal Donald Rumsfeld died of multiple myeloma at his home in Taos at the age of 88.

    The United States is the arms dealer of the world and averse to gun control as it assassinates hundreds of children, women and men throughout the Muslim world. Hundreds of thousands have been slaughtered in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and beyond.

    South Dakota’s Ellsworth Air Force Base has butchered countless civilians during the actions to protect the heroin trade keeping the Russian mob and the American Central Intelligence Agency in cash.

    On Trump Organization orders bombers from EAFB near Rapid City had been targeting alleged Taliban drug facilities to prevent harm to “innocent Afghan civilians” all the while escalating its war on civilians to protect the friendly opium fields. But, after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered hits on American mercenaries in Afghanistan the air war was suspended.

    At least eighty percent of the world’s heroin comes from Afghanistan’s poppy fields. It’s a place where dropping the Earth’s largest non-nuclear explosive not only resulted in blowback, an attack in Kabul that killed a hundred people and injured many more, it drove a formidable native insurgency.

    The Republican-led wars there and in Iraq have cost American taxpayers some $6 TRILLION.

  2. cibvet 2021-09-15 10:02

    The economy would take a catastrophic hit if we stopped making war and selling weapons.Its mostly about the MONEY.

  3. bearcreekbat 2021-09-15 11:28

    Last night on prime time Fox TV Hannity was pushing the “treason” theory against General Milley, so that is probably how Cory’s twitter pal came up with the idea.

  4. Mark Anderson 2021-09-15 11:41

    I’m fine with giving Trump credit.

  5. Porter Lansing 2021-09-15 13:03

    I’ve been to a Rainbow Family Gathering.

    Anybody else, here?


  6. John 2021-09-15 13:25

    Getting out of Afghanistan frees up trillions to cure cancer, prevent Alzheimer’s, and for infrastructure projects. Conservative senators Manchin and Sinema don’t like it because of their ties to the defense and fossil fuel contractors.

    Second, and pivoting to flawed US foreign policies, Amanpour shares thoughtful observations of what went wrong, and what went right. I’m reminded in a larger sense, of my son mournfully asking, ‘Dad, how do you put Guantanamo on your resume?’ (He was sent to clean-up the abusive jailers.)

  7. jerry 2021-09-15 13:35

    NOem is all in on treason with her muse Cory Lew an dowski.

  8. O 2021-09-15 14:54

    Withdrawing from Afghanistan was one of the three policy positions on which I agreed with Trump.

    Legally, this probably is treason. Absent the rest of the cabinet doing their duty and involving the 25th or Congress doing an actual impeachment and conviction, the President is the commander-in-chief. This is really an ugly chain of command issue; the military stops working if everyone gets to pick and choose what orders to follow.

    This all should be a lesson on the importance of who we elect President, but the MAGA faithful will ignore the seriousness of a potential madman President with his finger on the button.

  9. mike from iowa 2021-09-15 15:28

    drumpf was never competent to be CIC.

  10. Donald Pay 2021-09-15 15:57

    §2381. Treason
    Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.

    Treason gets thrown around a lot in all sorts of situations. I don’t see what Milley did as treason. Just a few statutes down is one defining insurrection. That’s one that fits Trump’s activities before and on January 6th.

  11. bearcreekbat 2021-09-15 17:16

    I agree with Donald that this is not “treason.” The Hannity bit I mentioned above, however, declared China to be “the enemy” of the U.S. (although I don’t think Congress has ever declared war on China) and declared that because General Milley tried to reassure China that the U.S. did not intend to attack it that he committed treason.

  12. ArloBlundt 2021-09-15 18:36

    Well…in my mind, not treason but a performing of his patriotic duty as Chair of the Joint Chiefs…we pillory the military but over our recent history the military has shown reasonable restraint under very difficult circumstances most of the time. When they make errors they are distortions of their mission and are exceptional rather than the rule.

  13. W R Old Guy 2021-09-15 21:45

    I am a retired Vietnam era vet. I believe that Milley did the right thing to lessen the possibility of starting another military conflict. I do not believe he committed treason as he would have to disobey a lawful order or regulation. What did he violate? The key is the word “lawful”. Did he provide comfort to the enemy? Did he provide useful military information? Is China an enemy under the UCMJ when we are not at war?

    Treason would be difficult to prove at best.

  14. Yvonne 2021-09-15 21:47

    I may be mistaken but didnt the Trump administration push for the vaccination of all Americans which put this country in turmoil?
    The old saying, “An empty mind is a devils’ workshop” – pointing towards the importance of work for everybody especially the young. Lockdowns, oh yes, started by the repubs shutting businesses down creating a declining moral, emotional society and fear in all aspects of life amongst our American brothers and sisters who, most, were once proud to have a job and provide for their families.
    Recently, very interesting though, intriguing data from 70-80 countries show that anxiety levels increase when there is less work.  Thus, anxiety levels are inversely proportional to the number of hours people work per year.
    Good hard work which taxes our minds and is physically challenging will help us improve our immunity and will be good for the body and soul–plain common sense.
    So, hence, here comes the pandemic that not only attacks the working people but at the same time ones immunity. A plan in the making by those whom seek to control humanity ten fold.

    WORLD ORDER. Research all the sound bites of how many Repub politicians referenced a New World Order. It is greed of the corporate world which has brought us to this perilous state of world affairs where fewer and fewer people are owning more and more wealth and resources of the world. Top sided. This greed has also fueled the unsustainable lifestyle of the super-rich which most people like to copy.  

    Similarly it has also fueled the ascendancy of industrial-military complex whose sole aim is to fuel wars all over the world so that their costly armaments are continuously sold. 

    What is therefore needed is enlightened legislation, statewide, legislation state and federal politicians cannot change which requires liveable wages, rather than be paid some pre-structured and government- controlled minimum wages.
    So, which party or are both parties to blame, here, and the people are caught in the middle by fear mongering self proclaimed professionals and politicians whom are nothing more than lip service for the rich and powerful. Those who control the gold, so to speak, make the rules and those rules apply, only, to the people they are delegated to govern.
    Time for a real change in this countries democracy before a foreign demon walks in and takes over.

  15. jerry 2021-09-15 21:56

    The greatest threat to the American people is trump and his minions like NOem, Texas dummy, Florida dummy, Arizona dummy, Nebraska dummy, Iowa dummy, Montana dummy, Wyoming dummy and we go on. They all have one thing in common, they are thieves that are picking the pockets of Americans. Be disgusted dakotan, but look in the mirror to recognize disgust. China is not our enemy, selfish greed is.

  16. Richard Schriever 2021-09-15 22:09

    Porter, I have not been to a Rainbow Family gathering, but a good friend and sometime roommate of mine going way back to the early ’70’s attended them regularly. He was a sort of “founding brother’. A kind, caring and extremely intelligent fellow, he also went on to become the director of computing engineering at ASU.

  17. O 2021-09-16 08:09

    Porter, your point is well taken; I stand corrected on the use of the term treason. My usage was looking to articulate acting against your country.

  18. O 2021-09-16 08:11

    Sorry, Donald — not Porter. It is 8:00 and I have already posted two retractions/revisions. Yeesh.

  19. cibvet 2021-09-16 09:52

    Any person in any military service can and should refuse to carry out an unlawful order. Should they refuse, the UCMJ becomes the adjudicators. Case in point, an order to nuke China because you lost an election and want to retain your power.

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