Retiring Special Representative to Syria Jim Jeffrey admitted that he and his colleagues lied to President Trump multiple times about troop levels in Syria. Jeffrey excused his behavior by rationalizing that it ensured a small U.S. contingent would remain to fill the void following the collapse of ISIS.
The Daily Caller’s Christian Datoc reports:
Jeffrey, speaking to Defense One, explained how despite Trump’s stated promise to withdraw America from endless Middle Eastern engagements, he was able to convince the president to commit to keeping between 200 to 400 troops in the region in 2019 to “secure” oil fields held by U.S. allies and other strategic positions.
“We were always playing shell games to not make clear to our leadership how many troops we had there,” he stated. “When the situation in northeast Syria had been fairly stable after we defeated ISIS, [Trump] was inclined to pull out. In each case, we then decided to come up with five better arguments for why we needed to stay. And we succeeded both times. That’s the story.”
Jim Sciutto, CNN’s chief national security correspondent, tweeted that senior Defense Department officials told him similar stories when interviewed for his book, “The Madman Theory.”
In #TheMadmanTheory, senior DOD officials told me how they fooled Trump into leaving troops on the ground:
“If you look at his tweets, they were definitive about leaving. And then we didn’t leave. And now we haven’t left, we’re still there, and that’s a good thing.” https://t.co/vo3HBxb7tg
— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) November 13, 2020
Jeffrey, who publicly opposed Trump’s foreign policy before joining the administration in 2018, did praise Trump during his interview with Defense One. He claimed that Trump’s “modest” approach to Middle Eastern policy was far more effective than that of either former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
President Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper six days after the election. He swiftly installed new leadership at the Pentagon with the reported intention of completing a full withdrawal from Afghanistan by year’s end.