Axios’ “Off the rails” series documents the end of the Trump administration, from election night 2020 through the Jan. 6 siege of the U.S. Capitol.

One important piece is only now beginning to emerge: Former President Donald Trump’s last-minute bid to pull U.S. forces from Afghanistan and swaths of the Middle East, Africa and even Europe ahead of Joe Biden’s inauguration — and why he blinked.

John McEntee, one of Donald Trump’s most-favored aides, handed retired Army Col. Douglas Macgregor a piece of paper with a few notes scribbled on it. He explained: “This is what the president wants you to do.”

1. Get us out of Afghanistan.

>2. Get us out of Iraq and Syria.

>3. Complete the withdrawal from Germany.

>4. Get us out of Africa.

It was Nov. 9, 2020 — days after Trump lost his re-election bid, 10 weeks before the end of his presidency and just moments after Macgregor was offered a post as senior adviser to acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller.

As head of the powerful Presidential Personnel Office, McEntee had Trump’s ear. Even so, Macgregor was astonished. He told McEntee he doubted they could do all of these things before Jan. 20.

“Then do as much as you can,” McEntee replied.

In Macgregor’s opinion, Miller probably couldn’t act on his own authority to execute a total withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Afghanistan because he was serving in an acting capacity. If this was for real, Macgregor told McEntee, then it was going to need an order from the president

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