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Pentagon shake-up continues as another top official departs

The top official leading the Pentagon’s Defeat-ISIS Task Force resigned Monday, becoming the latest senior official to be fired or asked to resign in recent days, part of a White House-directed post-election purge that saw some of the senior-most Defense Department civilians ousted in a matter of days.

“Today, Acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller accepted the resignation of Christopher Maier, the Director of the DoD Defeat-ISIS Task Force,” a Pentagon spokesman said in a statement.

Maier had led the task force since its inception in March 2017. The task force was responsible for overseeing policy and strategy development as well as international negotiations pertaining to the fight against ISIS.

The statement also said the task force director position’s duties and responsibilities “will be absorbed” by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict and the regionally focused staffs of the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy.

Loyalists installed

The two offices are currently being led by Ezra Cohen-Watnick and Anthony Tata, individuals perceived as Trump loyalists who have been promoted in the wake of the recent purge.

Cohen-Watnick was made the top Pentagon civilian overseeing intelligence, as well as continuing to serve as the acting assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict.

The latter position was further enhanced earlier this month when Miller signed a memo that he said made the post “commensurate” with the service secretaries leading the Army, Navy and Air Force.

Tata, who failed to obtain Senate confirmation for a top Pentagon policy position, was installed as the top policy official at the Defense Department after his predecessor was forced out the day after President Donald Trump fired then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

Tata’s nomination encountered controversy after it was revealed that he had espoused a series of conspiracy theories.

The Defense Department statement Monday said that “these changes recognize the success of the military fight to destroy the so-called physical caliphate of ISIS and reflect DoD’s commitment to institutionalize efforts to counter ISIS and integrate efforts with allies and partners within our counterterrorism and regional policy offices.”

Maier’s resignation follows a wave of departures in early November after Trump fired Esper and replaced him with Miller.

Alexis Ross, Esper’s deputy chief of staff, resigned November 12, joining now-former chief of staff Jen Stewart and the top Pentagon officials overseeing policy and intelligence, all three of whom had submitted their resignations two days earlier.

Stewart was replaced by Kash Patel, who most recently served as senior director for counterterrorism at the White House National Security Council and is seen as much more ideological and closely linked to Trump.

Retired Navy Vice Adm. Joseph Kernan, the under secretary of defense for intelligence, also left his position and was replaced by Cohen-Watnick.

The White House has also moved to clear out an outside advisory group of former high-profile national security officials, acting last Wednesday to jettison former Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright and Henry Kissinger, former ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee Jane Harman and former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, two officials told CNN.

The Defense Policy Board they sat on provides “the Secretary of Defense and the Deputy Secretary of Defense, independent, informed advice and opinions concerning matters of defense policy in response to specific tasks from the Secretary of Defense, the Deputy Secretary of Defense,” according to their website.

CNN

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