Former top admiral alarmed by Pentagon purge says Trump still has time to do something 'really destructive'

  • Retired Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Sunday that 's recent personnel purge at the Pentagon was troubling.
  • "It's pretty difficult to think that over the course of 50 or 60 days you can do something constructive, but you can do something that's really destructive," Mullen said.
  • Retired Adm. William McRaven, the former head of US Special Operations Command, also said Sunday that he was "concerned" by the sudden changes.
  • Both said they were worried by the administration's rushed attempts to withdraw thousands of US troops from Iraq Afghanistan.
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Mike Mullen, a retired Navy admiral and formerly the top US military officer, sounded the alarm Sunday over the recent Pentagon leadership purge, noting that there is still time for President and his team to do "something that's really destructive."

"I'm actually very concerned about the Trump loyalists who have now gone to work in the Pentagon," Mullen, who served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during both the Bush and Obama administrations, told Chuck Todd Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Earlier month, Trump fired his defense secretary. The next day, the chief of staff to the secretary of defense and the top civilian Pentagon policy and intelligence officials resigned.

Those positions were filled by Trump loyalists, including retired Brig. Gen. Anthony Tata, a former Fox News commentator who spread falsehoods about former President Barack Obama, writing on social media that Obama was a "terrorist."

"There are some real Trump loyalists there now in charge," Mullen said. "It's pretty difficult to think that over the course of 50 or 60 days you can do something constructive, but you can do something that's really destructive."

As observers questioned the reasons behind the moves at the Pentagon, the administration began taking steps to pull thousands of US troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan.

On November 17, acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller, who arrived at the Pentagon only a week prior, announced that by the middle of January the troop levels in Afghanistan and Iraq will be down to 2,500 each.

"I just think we need to be very careful with that," Mullen said of the reductions.

"I'd like everybody to come home as well," he continued. "There are still terrorists who would do us ill. I want to play, actually, the game on their turf, and not play it here. If we just come home, my fear is that they arrive here in the United States."

"We've been through that before and I never want to see that happen again," he said.

Retired Adm. William McRaven, the former head of US Special Operations Command and Navy SEAL who oversaw the Osama bin Laden raid, said Sunday on ABC's "This Week" that he was also "concerned" by changes at the Pentagon.

He said that Trump had "taken out all the leadership in the Department of Defense" and replaced them with a new team, one lacking experience.

"The new team, you know, maybe they're good folks, but they are inexperienced," he said. "And what they're trying to do, of course, is to push forward President Trump's agenda, particularly when it comes to Iraq and Afghanistan and drawing down the number of troops."

"We can have reasonable policy discussions on how many people we ought to have in Iraq and Afghanistan," McRaven continued. "But what we don't want to do is we don't want to rush to failure. We don't want to pull everybody out of Afghanistan and risk putting the troops, you know, in greater harm's way."

"We've got to be thoughtful, we've got to be methodical about how we draw down the number of troops in Afghanistan," he said. "But what it appears is that this new administration in the Department of Defense is really rushing to get a lot of Trump's agenda resolved before a President Biden comes in."

Both Mullen and McRaven also raised concerns about the possibility of escalating tensions with Iran, which has been a serious issue at various points during Trump's presidency.

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