Christopher Miller, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, testifies during a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on “Threats to the Homeland” on Capitol Hill in Washington, September 24, 2020.
Tom Williams via Reuters
WASHINGTON — In his first message to U.S. military forces, acting Pentagon chief Chris Miller said he was “weary of war” and that it was time to end America’s conflicts in the Middle East.
On Monday, Miller ascended to the Pentagon’s acting Secretary of Defense role after President Donald Trump’s sudden termination of Secretary of Defense Mark Esper.
“Indeed, this fight has been long, our sacrifices have been enormous, and many are weary of war — I’m one of them — but this is the critical phase in which we transition our efforts from a leadership to supporting role,” Miller wrote in an early Saturday morning message to Department of Defense employees.
“We are not a people of perpetual war — it is the antithesis of everything for which we stand for which our ancestors fought. All wars must end,” he added, writing that the U.S. was “on the verge of defeating Al Qaida and its associates.”
“We met the challenge; we gave it our all. Now, it’s time to come home,” Miller wrote.
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. James Bates pulls security at a landing zone as his team loads a tactical vehicle into the cargo bay of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter in Farah province, Afghanistan on Sept. 26.
Staff Sgt Jonathan Lovelady | US. Air Force
The wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria have cost U.S. taxpayers more than $1.57 trillion since Sept. 11, 2001, according to a Defense Department report. The war in Afghanistan, which has dragged on to become America’s longest conflict, began 19 years ago and has cost U.S. taxpayers $193 billion, according to the Pentagon.
Trump, who campaigned in 2016 on stopping “ridiculous endless wars” in the Middle East, took to Twitter last month to announce that American forces currently serving in Afghanistan will be home by Christmas.
At the time, it was unclear if Trump was giving an order via tweet or reiterating a long-held campaign promise in order to appeal to voters ahead of the U.S. presidential election.
Earlier this year, the United States brokered a peace deal with the Taliban that would usher in a permanent cease-fire and reduce the U.S. military’s footprint from approximately 13,000 to 8,600 by mid-July. And by May 2021, all foreign forces would leave the war-torn country.
Trump has previously directed the Pentagon to reduce the U.S. fighting force in conflict zones.
In 2018, Trump tweeted that the United States would be withdrawing troops out of Syria, a move that sent a shockwave through the Pentagon and contributed in part to the resignation of then-Defense Secretary James Mattis. Trump later reversed his decision to withdraw from Syria.
In May, Trump complained on Twitter that America’s role in Afghanistan has been reduced to a “police force” and not a “fighting force.”
When asked about the tweet by reporters during a White House event, Trump said that the U.S. could go back to Afghanistan if needed.
“We can always go back if we have to. If we have to go back, we’ll go back, and we’ll go back raging,” Trump said in May.