mark esper

In a slap at a longtime ally frequently reviled by President Trump, Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced Wednesday that the U.S. plans to withdraw roughly a third of the 36,000 American forces stationed in Germany.

Nearly 5,600 of the 11,800 troops to be removed from Germany would be sent to other NATO allies in Europe, including Poland. Another 6,400 would return to the U.S., although they or similar units would be redeployed to other European countries on what Esper described as a "rotational" basis.

Updated at 6:18 p.m. ET

Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Friday unveiled a policy change that effectively blocks the public display of the Confederate battle flag at all U.S. military installations without specifically naming that controversial banner.

Esper's announcement follows a lengthy internal debate as well as recent bans on displaying the flag by both the U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Navy.

Retired Marine Gen. Jim Mattis, who resigned as President Trump's defense secretary nearly a year and a half ago over policy differences, has issued an extraordinary critique of the White House's handling of nationwide unrest, saying Trump has sought to divide Americans and warning against "militarizing our response" to the protests.

Updated at 7 p.m. ET

In a move that possibly placed his job in peril, Defense Secretary Mark Esper publicly disagreed Wednesday with President Trump's threatened use of the 1807 Insurrection Act to quell widespread unrest over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck.

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper has given the go-ahead to begin a drawdown of American forces in Afghanistan, despite reports that the Taliban is ending a partial ceasefire and has resumed attacks on Afghan forces.