President Donald Trump has ended the decade-long saga of Maj. Matthew Golsteyn by ordering a murder charge against the former Green Beret dismissed with a full pardon.
The Army charged Golsteyn with murder in December 2018 after he repeatedly acknowledged that he killed an unarmed Afghan man in 2010. Golsteyn's charge sheet identifies the man as “Rasoul.”
Golsteyn has claimed that an Afghan tribal elder told him that Rasoul was a Taliban bomb maker who was responsible for the death of two Marines. At the time, Rasoul was in custody, but the U.S. military required Golsteyn to release him after a certain period of time.
Fearing that Rasoul would kill the Afghan tribal leader once he was free, Golsteyn lay in wait and shot him off base, as he has admitted several times.
“Golsteyn has said he later shot the terrorist because he was certain that the terrorist's bombmaking activities would continue to threaten American troops and their Afghan partners, including Afghan civilians who had helped identify him,” a statement from The White House said.
“After nearly a decade-long inquiry and multiple investigations, a swift resolution to the case of Major Golsteyn is in the interests of justice. Clemency for Major Golsteyn has broad support, including from Representatives Louie Gohmert, Duncan Hunter, Mike Johnson, Ralph Abraham, and Clay Higgins, American author and Marine combat veteran Bing West, and Army combat veteran Pete Hegseth.”
Additionally, Trump pardoned 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, who had been convicted of murder for ordering his soldiers to open fire on three unarmed Afghan men, two of whom were killed, and restored the rank of Navy SEAL Chief Edward Gallagher, who was found not guilty of murdering a wounded ISIS prisoner but convicted of taking an unauthorized photo with the corpse.
Golsteyn first acknowledged killing Rasoul in 2011 while taking a polygraph test for a CIA job, according to Washington Post reporter Dan Lamothe. He also said that he initially buried Rasoul, but he and two other soldiers returned to the grave later to exhume Rasoul's body and burn it.
The Army launched an investigation but decided not to prosecute Golsteyn. That changed after Golsteyn admitted to Fox News' Bret Baier during an October 2016 interview that he had killed Rasoul.
In February, Golsteyn told the Washington Post and Fox News that he legally ambushed Rasoul, who was trying to rejoin the Taliban after being released.
“Over these years, what the Army – particularly this time, the United States Army Special Operations Command – seems to be intent on doing is characterizing an ambush as murder,” Golsteyn told Fox & Friends' Pete Hegseth in a Feb. 10 interview. “What Army special operators and regular Army, like infantry soldiers, have done over the last 15 years, those routine combat actions are now being characterized as murder.”
The president has voiced his support for Golsteyn, whom he has called an American military hero. Trump tweeted in December 2018 and then again last month that the White House was reviewing the Golsteyn case.
“We train our boys to be killing machines, then prosecute them when they kill!” the president tweeted on Oct. 12.
On Nov. 4, Hegseth announced that Trump would soon exonerate Golsteyn and former Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, who was convicted of murder for ordering his troops to open fire on three unarmed Afghan men, two of whom were killed. Hegseth also said the president would restore Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher's rank to chief and stop the Navy from taking away his SEAL trident.
Golsteyn's trial had been scheduled to begin on Feb. 19, 2020. The murder case has so far prevented Golsteyn from retiring from the Army, which has revoked his Special Forces qualification and a Silver Star he earned during his Afghanistan deployment, according Army Times.
In a Nov. 7 news release issued by his attorney, Golsteyn thanked the president for his support. “His involvement is critical and urgently needed,” Golsteyn said in the news release.
“We hope to get the good news soon. In the meantime, our family is so appreciative of the support we have received from around the nation from other military families and friends.”