The former president was met with applause from the audience as he mocked former chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Mark Milley, calling him a “stupid person,” and described military officials as “some of the dumbest people I’ve ever met in my life.”
In footage of the campaign rally posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, Mr Trump could be heard discussing leaving US military equipment in Afghanistan following the US withdrawal from the country in August 2021.
More than $7.1bn of US-funded military equipment was in the hands of the Afghan government when it fell to the Taliban, according to a Department of Defense (DOD) report published last year.
He said Mr Milley told him: “‘Sir, it would be cheaper if we left everything.’ I said, where is this guy ... where does he come from?”
“I mean, you think it’s cheaper to leave it than to fill it with a little—a little fuel and fly it the hell out?” Mr Trump said, referencing what he described as a “brand new airplane” costing $128m.
“Even if you just fly it to Pakistan then you bring it back home, or you fly it back home. Most of them can make that journey, right?” he added.
“Oh, it’s better to leave it there,” Mr Trump said, impersonating Mr Milley.
The former president added: “I don’t want to tell you what I had to go through with these people. Some of the dumbest people I’ve ever met in my life.”
In comments made in September on Truth Social, the former president said the top general should face the death penalty for a conversation he had with his Chinese counterpart.
He claimed Mr Milley went behind his back to communicate with China during the final months of the Trump administration.
“This guy turned out to be a Woke train wreck who, if the Fake News reporting is correct, was actually dealing with China to give them a heads up on the thinking of the President of the United States,” Mr Trump wrote. “This is an act so egregious that, in times gone by, the punishment would have been DEATH! A war between China and the United States could have been the result of this treasonous act.”
His comments prompted former House speaker Nancy Pelosi to say Mr Trump should be barred from public office.
“To engage a language like that… it should be something that would eliminate someone as a prospect for any public office,” she said.
Mr Milley has denied that there was anything treasonous about the calls he made to China, telling CBS News at the time he is taking “appropriate measures” to ensure his safety following Mr Trump’s comments.
The former top general also said that he has been “faithful to the Constitution of the United States” for nearly 45 years, adding he and his family “sacrificed greatly for this country.”
In separate comments last month, Mr Milley doubled down on his claim that he has been faithful to the constitution and criticised Mr Trump.
“We don’t take an oath to a king or a queen or to a tyrant or a dictator. And we don’t take an oath to a wannabe dictator,” Mr Milley said.
“We don’t take an oath to an individual. We take an oath to the Constitution, and we take an oath to the idea that is America, and we’re willing to die to protect it,” the general added.
It comes after a 2021 book by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa revealed Mr Milley assured General Li Zuocheng of the People’s Liberation Army that the US would not launch an attack against China toward the end of the Trump administration.
Mr Milley’s spokesperson said the general’s calls to China were part of his regular communications with defence chiefs worldwide. The spokesperson described the calls as being crucial to reducing tensions between nations, as well as “avoiding unintended consequences or conflict.”
“His calls with the Chinese and others in October and January were in keeping with these duties and responsibilities conveying reassurance in order to maintain strategic stability,” his spokesperson said. “All calls from the chairman to his counterparts, including those reported, are staffed, coordinated and communicated with the Department of Defense and the interagency.”
Donald Trump is currently the front-runner in the Republican presidential primaries, despite facing a number of criminal indictments at both the federal level and in state cases in New York and Georgia.
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