KEY POINTS

  • Miller is a 55-year-old former Green Beret
  • He reportedly advised the president against attacks on Iran
  • He’s pledged to keep the Defense Department strong

While he will have only about two months on the job, acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller is taking the initiative and checking off boxes for the sitting president.

A few short days after President Donald Trump abruptly fired Mark Esper from the job, Miller struck a tone of encouragement.

“I want to assure the American public and our allies and partners that the Department of Defense remains strong and continues its vital work of protecting our homeland, our people and our interests around the world,” he said last week.

This week, however, he helped make good on a Trump pledge to wind down the nation's military commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I am formally announcing that we will implement President Trump's orders to continue our repositioning of forces from those two countries,” he announced Monday.

By Jan. 15, the U.S. plans to have just 2,500 troops stationed in each country under the orders. Currently, there are around 3,000 troops in Iraq and 4,500 in Afghanistan. The U.S. troop commitment in Afghanistan is the longest in the nation’s history, starting shortly after al-Qaida's 2001 terrorist attacks on U.S. soil.

The Jan. 15 target for troop reductions comes five days before President-elect Joe Biden takes the oath of office.

Trump has long sought to end the engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan. As recently as September, the president acknowledged he was at odds with Pentagon brass over his policies, adding “they want to do nothing but fight wars so that all of those wonderful companies that make the bombs and make the planes and make everything else stay happy.”

The troop decision didn’t sit well with some leaders. Sen. Jack Reed, D-RI, ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the troop decision smacked of politicking.

“Instead of heeding the advice of national security professionals and working with our allies, President Trump is venting his frustration over losing the election in a manner that is more costly, jeopardizes our military personnel, aids the Taliban and terrorist networks, and emboldens those who want greater conflict with Iran,” he said in a statement Tuesday.

The New York Times on Monday reported that Trump had asked about an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities, but was advised against inciting a broader conflict by Miller and other top defense officials. Trump has surrounded himself with officials bent on regime change in the Islamic republic.

Miller is a former Green Beret who rose swiftly through the national security ranks to become the director of the National Counterterrorism Center. Politico reported that Miller is likely to bolster U.S. special forces during his short time in office.

Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller busy at work during the lame duck period. Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller busy at work during the lame duck period. Photo: US Department of Defense