U.S. President Donald Trump (C), flanked by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) and Defense Secretary James Mattis (R), holds a cabinet meeting at the White House in Washington, U.S. March 13, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
The president campaigned against nation-building. But he hasn't decided what to do instead.
Usually when a president agrees to send more troops to a war zone, it's part of a broader strategy. George W. Bush approved the surge of forces to Iraq as part of a population-centric counterinsurgency war plan. Barack Obama did the same in his first year when it came to Afghanistan, though he eventually regretted the decision, and spent most of his presidency trying to end that war.
For Donald Trump it's different. On Tuesday, he agreed in principle to send more troops to Afghanistan, but he has yet to agree to the broader strategy for winning America's longest war.
That strategy is still technically in development, but its broad outlines -- an increase in special operations forces to train, advise and assist Afghan forces; a more robust plan to go after elements in Pakistan that aid the Taliban; the deployment of more air power and artillery; and a political commitment to the survival of the current government in Kabul -- have been in place since April.
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WNU Editor: The key paragraph from Eli Lake`s post is the following ....
.... In the private meeting with the president on Tuesday, according to administration officials, Mattis, McMaster and Tillerson made the case that U.S. commanders needed flexibility to send more forces to Afghanistan now in order to prevent a disaster. The Afghan government has been slowly losing the fight with the Taliban since 2015. More recently, U.S. military leaders have testified before Congress that the U.S. is losing the war. The dire situation was brought home over the weekend when the Taliban claimed credit for infiltrating an Afghan unit and killing three U.S. soldiers in Nangarhar province.
The Afghan government is clearly losing the war .... so what should be the international community`s response? NATO members have been reluctant to re-engage by upping their contribution to Afghanistan for the past few years .... and I do not expect this to change. There is clearly no stomach among the American people to get involved .... and definitely not for a large-scale commitment. So absent this desire to engage .... is now the time to leave and accept the consequences? My take is that since President Trump campaigned on the promise to not get engaged in nation building .... and unless US Defense Secretary Mattis US Secretary of State Tillerson present a plan that will show forward and sustainable progress (which I doubt) .... this is a promise that he should keep. But my prediction is that a stop-gap measure is going to be deployed .... keep the Taliban at bay, and hope that with time and with the proper assistance the Afghan Army will transform itself into an effective fighting force in the same manner that the Iraqi Army has been able to transform itself in the past 2 years while fighting the Islamic State.
More Commentary On The U.S. Involvement In Afghanistan
Mattis Gets Authority in Afghanistan, But Trump Remains Engaged -- Military.com
U.S. Defense Chief Says Doesn't Have 'Carte Blanche' For Afghan Strategy -- RFE
McChrystal: Trump responsible for Mattis's decision to send troops to Afghanistan -- The Hill
White House, Pentagon to take regionwide approach in new Afghan war plan -- Washington Times
Trump delegates too much of his Commander-in-Chief authority -- Steve Benen, MSNBC
Trump Is Right To Delegate On Defense -- Max Boot, FOX News/Commentary