President Donald Trump on Wednesday said he "essentially" fired former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, expressing dissatisfaction with his Afghanistan strategy.
During an extended pool spray in the White House conference room, Trump said he pushed the retired Marine Corps general out for his failure to get "results" in Afghanistan. Trump announced at the end of the year that he wanted to withdraw half of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, as well as all troops out of Syria, and he blamed generals Wednesday for not doing "such a great job in Afghanistan."
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"General Mattis was so thrilled [with Pentagon funding]. But what's he done for me? How has he done in Afghanistan? Not too good. Not too good," Trump said.
"I wish him well. I hope he does well, but as you know, President Obama fired him and essentially so did I," he added. "I want results."
In Mattis’ resignation letter, he made it clear he was forced out owing to differences with Trump over how to engage allies and conduct foreign policy. Mattis said he held his views because he’s "clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors" after "decades of immersion in these issues."
Trump said "we are talking to the Taliban" and went on to explain his theory that Afghanistan is not worth the military investment the U.S. has made there. In his view, because the Soviet Union bankrupted itself in the Soviet–Afghan War, so could the U.S.
"Russia used to be the Soviet Union. Afghanistan made it Russia because they went bankrupt fighting in Afghanistan," Trump said, referring to the war that took place between 1979 and 1989.
Trump argued that Russia and other countries, such as India and Pakistan, should be involved in Afghanistan because it is closer to them geographically.
"Russia should be fighting. The reason Russia was in Afghanistan was because terrorists were going into Russia," he said, which is a theory of the war’s origin that historians generally do not hold. "They [Russia] were right to be there. The problem is, it was a tough fight. and literally they went bankrupt."
"Why isn't Russia there? Why isn't India there? Why are we there and we're 6,000 miles away?" Trump asked.