(November 9, 2020 / JNS) U.S. President Donald Trump announced on Monday that he has fired U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper.
“I am pleased to announce that Christopher C. Miller, the highly respected director of the National Counterterrorism Center (unanimously confirmed by the Senate), will be Acting Secretary of Defense, effective immediately,” tweeted Trump.
The ouster was seen by many as inevitable due to policy differences between him and the president, including over banning Confederate flags at U.S. military installations and whether or not to rename U.S. bases for those named after Confederate figures. Another disagreement concerned the use of active-duty American troops to quell the protests and riots during the summer in the wake of the George Floyd killing; Trump favored their deployment while Esper did not.
During Esper’s 16-month tenure as the Pentagon’s 27th leader, the United States increased its military posture towards Iran that included upping troop presence in the Middle East and, in January, eliminating Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Solemani, who headed the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, in an airstrike in Iraq.
Additionally, Turkey was ejected last year from the U.S. F-35 program after Ankara acquired the S-400 missile-defense system from Russia.
Esper further sought to withdraw U.S. troops this year from the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.
Finally, just before leaving office, Esper played a major role in the possible U.S. sale of F-35s to the United Arab Emirates after the UAE normalized ties with Israel. The pending sale followed Esper and other Trump administration members assuring Israel that the United States would ensure the Jewish state’s Qualitative Military Edge in the Middle East, in accordance with U.S. law.
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