Gen. John Kelly

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Trump Taps Kelly for Homeland Security

| published December 7 , 2016 |

By Thursday Review staff writers

President-elect Donald Trump has chosen retired general Marine General John Kelly, age 66, to serve as the head of the Department of Homeland Security, the agency charged with border protection and domestic security for the United States.

Kelly’s nomination is the third time in as many weeks that Trump has tapped a former general for a top role in the new administration, a sure sign—some analysts have suggested—that Trump is not only making peace with some of the same generals he often complained about during the period when he was campaigning for the Presidency, but also that Trump wants to tap into the vast trove of experience and knowledge from recently retired military leaders for key posts.

Immediately prior to his retirement, Kelly served as the head of the Southern Command, the Pentagon component responsible for military operations and strategic liaison activity in most of the Caribbean and Central and South America.

Kelly—born in Boston—is known to be a hardliner on issues of border security and illegal immigration, and has a record in Congressional testimony of emphasizing the dangers inherent in unprotected borders and antiquated immigration laws, especially in the context of terrorism. Among Kelly’s warnings to Congress: terrorist groups and jihadists might seek to co-opt the same cross-border mechanisms and routes—tunnels dug by drug cartels or treacherous paths blazed by human traffickers—to facilitate getting terrorists and weapons into the United States.

For these reasons, Kelly is perhaps an unsurprising pick by Trump. Trump has made both border security and the curtailing of illegal immigration.

Kelly has also been known to differ sharply with President Barack Obama on the matter of the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where some 60 detainees remain under extremely heavy military security.

General Kelly also has the unfortunate distinction of being the highest-raking U.S. military official to have lost of son or daughter in combat in the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Kelly’s son, Marine Lieutenant Robert Michael Kelly, was killed in Afghanistan in 2010.

Word that Trump may tap Kelly for the Homeland Security position had been circulating for days, even as Trump’s team announced other top administration and cabinet picks. CBS News was the first major news organization to break the story that Kelly’s selection was official. Kelly, who has been nominated, will still have to face intense grilling by members of Congress.

In addition to his extensive experience in affairs related to Latin America, Kelly also served out two years in the Middle East, including time spent in Iraq coordinating battlefield operations against Sunni insurgents—many of them in the incubative stages of what would eventually become ISIS, or the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Kelly is only recently retired from the military; he retired at age 65 earlier this year after more than 40 years with the Marine Corps.

Related Thursday Review articles:

ICE Agents Arrest More Than 1000; Keith H. Roberts; Thursday Review; March 28, 2016.

Pentagon to Request Troop Increase to Battle ISIS; Keith H. Roberts; Thursday Review; March 26, 2016.