Retired four-star Adm. William McRaven said Thursday that a report of a possible obstruction of justice probe into President Trump is “significant for us as Americans.”
In an interview with Yahoo News and Finance Anchor Bianna Golodryga, McRaven also praised special counsel Robert Mueller and explained his vision of a U.S. victory in Afghanistan.
“I’m confident that between committees and [former FBI] Director Mueller, they will get to the bottom of this one way or the other,” McRaven said. He noted that he knows Mueller well, calling him “a remarkable individual [with] incredible character and integrity.”
The Washington Post reported Wednesday that Mueller was investigating whether Trump attempted to obstruct justice by firing FBI Director James Comey as the bureau was investigating whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election.
McRaven also said that Russia “may be giggling a little bit” when asked whether Russian President Vladimir Putin’s offer of political asylum to Comey meant that Russia was laughing at the expense of the U.S.
“I think the Russians feel anytime they are in a position of power, whether in Syria, whether it’s, you know, helping out or … worsening the situation between Qatar and Saudi and Iran,” McRaven said, “this puts them in a position where they want to be. So anytime they can have the upper hand, I think it plays to their strategic approach to international affairs.”
McRaven recently criticized Trump for his proposed cuts to the State Department and U.S. development aid, and in the past has blasted the president for his travel ban and his tirades against the media.
McRaven, who orchestrated and oversaw the operation that killed Osama bin Laden, also described what a U.S. victory in Afghanistan would look like. “We’re not winning in Afghanistan,” he said, echoing Defense Secretary James Mattis’ exact comments on the matter earlier this week. The 16-year war is currently under review by the Trump administration, though the administration has not yet produced a clear strategy.
McRaven defined victory as “when the central government in Kabul was not under an existential threat from the Taliban or from al-Qaida or from, now, ISIS.”
“The Taliban will always exist … in some shape or form, but you want to make sure that they are not conducting bombings daily … making sure population centers are well protected,” McRaven said. “And that, again, that the central government is not under existential threat. When you get to that point and you know you can sustain it, then we’re probably winning in Afghanistan.”
With about 8,400 Americans already serving in Afghanistan, current commander Gen. John Nicholson recently requested “a few thousand” more troops, perhaps augmented by allied forces. Trump recently gave Mattis control over those troop levels.
“We in the military always felt that we shouldn’t probably bring it down to about where it is now, about 9,000,” McRaven said. “There’s a tipping point there somewhere, and at 9,000 we’ve been able to kind of hold our own.”
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