Matthew Golsteyn: US Army refuses to reinstate Special Forces pin to major Trump pardoned for alleged Afghanistan murder

A US Army general has refused to reinstate the Special Forces tab for a disgraced officer pardoned by Donald Trump last year, potentially setting up yet another high-profile clash between the president and the US military.

The decision not to restore the military decoration to retired Major Matthew Golsteyn was was made early last month by Lt Gen Francis Baudette, the commander of US Army Special Operations Command, and disclosed by the Army on Thursday. The tab marks a soldier as a member of the elite US Army Special Forces, which are colloquially referred to as the Green Berets.

Major Golsteyn, who was accused of murdering a suspected Taliban bomb maker in 2010, was awaiting trial for those actions when Mr Trump pardoned the veteran in November.

The denial of his request for reinstatement followed just after the president personally reversed a Pentagon decision not to reinstate the rank and Trident pin for Navy Seal Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher, who was acquitted of murder last year over the killing of a prisoner of war.

“I’m disappointed, but I’m not surprised,” Mr Golsteyn told the Washington Post, responding to the decision by the Army. “I was really hoping they would do the right thing.” 

The retired Army major has publicly acknowledged killing the suspected Taliban bomb maker in media interviews, but has said that it occurred during a lawful ambush. He has said he burned the body to prevent the spread of disease.

Major Golsteyn wasn’t investigated by the Army until he disclosed the killing during a 2011 polygraph test with the CIA, which was considering him for a job. Three years later in 2014, Army officials revoked his special forces tab and valour award, and reprimanded.

He was charged with murder in 2018.

Some similarities exist between the circumstances Major Golsteyn faces and the situation Chief Gallagher faced, and senior Pentagon officials have reportedly handled Major Golsteyn’s case with care following the events last year. It is, however, unclear if Mr Trump plans on intervening in Major Golsteyn’s favour.

Chief Gallagher was originally denied the reinstatement of his Naval Special Warfare Trident pin in November, which would effectively remove him from the elite force.

But, Mr Trump responded angrily to the decision, and blocked the move. The decision led to former Navy secretary Richard Spencer’s ouster.

Lt Gen Baudette wrote in a 3 December memorandum that he was denying Major Golsteyn’s request because his actions “demonstrated a lack of adherence to the Special Forces Creed, and our American and Army values.”

Following Mr Trump’s decision to intervene in Chief Gallagher’s case, the Navy Seal was seen visiting with the president at his Florida Mar-a-Lago resort with his wife over the holidays.

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