John Kelly, the Marine General to head US Homeland Security

WASHINGTON: John Kelly, the retired Marine Corps general picked on Monday by Donald Trump to be Homeland Security Secretary, will take the lead in the new administration’s promised fight against extremists and illegal immigration. The third former general chosen for President-elect Trump’s cabinet, Kelly capped a 45-year military career as head of the US Southern Command, an assignment that immersed him in border security issues, migrant flows and counter-drug operations in the Caribbean and Central and South America.
That experience — and his record running large organisations — will be useful if he is confirmed by Congress to take charge of the Department of Homeland Security, a sprawling bureaucracy responsible for border protection and internal security.
With 240,000 civil servants, Homeland Security includes the Secret Service, the Coast Guard, immigration and customs enforcement, and the agency that protects airports.
It also has an intelligence arm and an office dedicated to preventing nuclear terrorism.
Those functions would make Kelly a pivotal figure in carrying out Trump’s election promises to build a wall on the Mexican border, deport undocumented immigrants and tighten legal immigration processes to screen out potential extremists.
The blunt-talking Kelly is close to retired general James Mattis, Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Defence. Kelly served as Mattis’s top aide in the 2003 assault on Baghdad that crushed Saddam Hussein’s army.
He is also shaped by the experience of having his own son, also a Marine, die in battle. First Lieutenant Robert Michael Kelly was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2010.
A native of Boston, Kelly, 66, enlisted in the Marines when he was 20, spent two years in an infantry company, and then left to go to university.
After graduating he rejoined the Corps as a second lieutenant and rose steadily through a number of positions, including company and battalion commands.
In the late 1990s, he was the Marine Corps commandant’s liaison to Congress, the first of two such stints that exposed him to the political give-and-take between the military and legislators.
In 1999, he began a two-year stint as special assistant to the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, in Mons, Belgium. — AFP