- The Washington Times
Thursday, November 12, 2020

A just-announced congressional hearing on Afghanistan’s future had been scheduled in August and was not triggered by recent personnel shake-ups in the Pentagon following the firing of former Defense Secretary Mark Esper, officials on Capitol Hill said.

The hearing before the full House Armed Services Committee is set for Nov. 20. Ryan Crocker, former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, is among the witnesses expected to testify on current U.S. strategy in the country and any possible impact on the peace process.

A congressional staffer said she could see the irony in the timing of the hearing, “given the current state of play.”

James Anderson, the acting policy chief at the Pentagon, handed in his resignation Tuesday, one day after President Trump unceremoniously fired Mr. Esper and replaced him with Christopher Miller, the former director of the National Counterterrorism Center. Retired Vice Adm. Joseph Kernan, undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, also resigned Tuesday.

Replacing Mr. Anderson is retired Army Brig. Gen. Anthony Tata, who had been Mr. Trump’s original choice for the position until his name was withdrawn from consideration after the unearthing of past Twitter messages deemed Islamaphobic. Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the current acting undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, will take over for Adm. Kernan.

Rep. Adam Smith, a Democrat from Washington state who heads the House Armed Services Committee, said “gutting” the Pentagon could be devastating for national security during a presidential transition period.

“If this is the beginning of a trend — the president either firing or forcing out national security professionals in order to replace them with people perceived as more loyal to him — then the next 70 days will be precarious at best and downright dangerous at worst,” Mr. Smith said. “This confirms what I have been saying for months: the president’s singular obsession with loyalty has severely undermined the competence of our government and made us less safe.”

Mr. Trump has made no secret of his desire to pull all American troops out of Afghanistan by Christmas. Military officials have advocated a more measured approach to troop reductions in the country and said they have yet to receive any formal orders from the White House to speed up the process.

“As soon as former Vice President Biden became President-elect Biden, President Trump and those loyal to him started to sow chaos and division. It appears that chaos has now reached the Pentagon,” Mr. Smith said.

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