Acting Defense Secretary Furthers Trump's Plan to End All Wars: 'We Gave It Our All'

Newly appointed acting defense secretary, Christopher Miller has signalled he could accelerate the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan and the Middle East in the final weeks of the Trump administration.

Miller, a former U.S. special forces officer and counterterrorism expert, was this week given the role by President Donald Trump who fired defense secretary Mark Esper.

In a memo to U.S. troops that went to Department of Defense staff, Miller wrote: "Ending wars requires compromise and partnership. We met the challenge; We gave it our all. Now it's time to come home."

His memo also said that the U.S. remained committed to "finishing the war that al Qaeda brought to our shores in 2001," referring to the 9/11 attacks, adding "but we must avoid our past strategic error of failing to see the fight through to the finish."

Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller
Acting U.S. Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller on November 13, at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. In a memo to U.S. troops, he wrote that "now it’s time to come home.” Alex Wong/Getty Images

Without specifying which U.S. deployments he meant, the reference to al Qaeda points to a dramatic Trump administration foreign policy denouement in Afghanistan and Iraq where American troops have been in place.

The memo issued on Friday also refers to his time "leading fighting men and women in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq earlier in my career." While he was "weary of war" Miller wrote that "this is the critical phase in which we transition our efforts from a leadership role to a supporting role."

"We are not a people of perpetual war— it is the antithesis of everything for which we stand and for which our ancestors fought," he added.

There are fewer than 10 weeks for a Trump administration to withdraw troops before President-elect Joe Biden takes office on January 20 after his election victory on November 3.

Trump has wanted to bring home troops from the Middle East but has faced pushback from officials in his administration calling for a more gradual withdrawal.

Esper had cut U.S. forces in Afghanistan by nearly two-thirds after a peace deal with the Taliban in Doha on February 29.

Before the election, Trump had surprised senior military figures when he tweeted that all U.S. troops in Afghanistan should be "home by Christmas." There are fears that an all-out withdrawal would leave the Afghan military exposed.

The Washington Post reported that before his dismissal, Esper had sent a classified memo to the White House, warning against lowering troops levels any further because of dangers that would pose troops still there and the impact it would have on U.S. alliances in the region.