Trump Gives Pentagon Unilateral Authority To Set Afghan Troop Levels

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Originally appeared at ZeroHedge

President Donald Trump has has given the Pentagon unilateral authority to set troop levels in Afghanistan, the WSJ and Reuters reported overnight, clearing the way for the military to intensify its fight against the Taliban and opening the door for future troop increases requested by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. While no immediate decision had been made about the troop levels, which are now set at about 8,400, the Pentagon is currently weighing plans to send between 3,000 and 5,000 additional troops.

Trump Gives Pentagon Unilateral Authority To Set Afghan Troop Levels

Noorullah Shirzada/AFP/Getty Images

The news comes after Mattis said in testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee that “We are not winning in Afghanistan right now. And we will correct this as soon as possible.” Mattis said the Taliban were “surging” at the moment, something he said he intended to address.

The decision is similar to one announced in April that applied to U.S. troop levels in Iraq and Syria, and came as Mattis warned Congress the U.S.-backed Afghan forces were not beating the Taliban despite more than 15 years of war. After the official announcement control over troop decisions to the Pentagon, expected to be announced on Wednesday, sets the stage for U.S. commanders to decide to reverse course in Afghanistan and begin sending more forces to the country after years of reductions in the hope that Kabul could handle internal threats on its own, the WSJ notes.

According to the WSJ, the White House decision to cede authority to Mr. Mattis is another reflection of Mr. Trump’s push to give the military wide latitude around the world. The White House has already given the Pentagon more power to carry out strikes in Yemen and Somalia. Mr. Trump removed a cap on troop levels in Iraq. And he approved Pentagon plans to send more U.S. troops and firepower into Syria to fight Islamic State.

The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan has been urging the Trump administration for months to send more troops to Afghanistan. But a decision to do so has met with resistance from some members of the Trump administration, who are wary of being dragged back into a fight that could require more forces, firepower and money.

A former U.S. official told Reuters such a decision might allow the White House to argue that it was not micromanaging as much as the administration of former President Barack Obama was sometimes accused of doing. Critics say delegating too much authority to the military does not shield Trump from political responsibility during battlefield setbacks and could reduce the chances for diplomats to warn of potential blowback from military decisions.

It has been four months since Army General John Nicholson, who leads U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan, said he needed “a few thousand” additional forces, some potentially drawn from U.S. allies.

As a reminder, the U.S. once had 100,000 troops in Afghanistan, after then-President Barack Obama approved a military surge in 2009 at a time when the war against the Taliban appeared to be in danger of failure. Before leaving office, Mr. Obama declared an end to major military operations and dramatically scaled back the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. There now are fewer than 9,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, primarily to help advise and train Afghan forces, which have struggled to secure their country.

The Pentagon has been weighing plans to send between 3,000 and 5,000 troops to Afghanistan. But that decision could still take weeks, the U.S. official said. Mattis, testifying Tuesday before the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that he expected to complete a military strategy for Afghanistan by next month. That could mean that a decision on troop numbers could occur simultaneously, or sometime afterward.

Still, some officials have questioned the benefit of sending more troops to Afghanistan because any politically palatable number would not be enough to turn the tide, much less create stability and security. To date, more than 2,300 Americans have been killed and more than 17,000 wounded since the war began in 2001.

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  • Colin Oskapy

    Trump in support of the US military opium trade.

  • grumpy_carpenter

    The world is becoming increasingly militarized, volatile and dangerous.

    AND the US is experiencing political volatility at home and is having trouble funding basic maintenance and readiness it’s military at the same time the new weapons systems they’ve acquired need extensive commissioning.

    Who in there right mind would consider it a good idea to throw money down the bottomless sinkhole that is Afghanistan at this point in history?

    Afghanistan is not and will never be a western democracy…..it’s not that they can’t be a democracy but that they already have a culture that work for them and no amount of bombing or midnight raids is going to change that…..unless of course the whole ‘lets try to civilize the Afghans by bombing some sense into them’ thing is just a smokescreen to build up military forces in preparation of an attack on Iran that is.

  • Peter Moy

    The US involvement in this unending war burns an estimated 23 billion dollars a year without any noticeable gains. The country is still a desperately poor destroyed hell hole after 16 years of intervention with people being killed like insects each week and the US and it’s puppet allies powerless to stop the mayhem. Only an incredibly stupid foreign policy would continue to be involved there but Mr. Trump has to satisfy his masters.

    • Miguel Redondo

      “The US involvement in this unending war burns an estimated 23 billion dollars a year without any noticeable gains.”

      This is exactly the point!

      23 billion $$ a year to weapons-manufacturers , fuel porveyors , clothmakers for the army , etc etc….
      and as bonus ….. Opium for the americans and the rest of the world.

      • Luigi

        Thats what war industry means. All the costs to taxpayers and all profits to warmakers.

    • JPH

      Budget nearing 700 billion now a year. So 23 would definitely not be the amount wasted. It is very much more.
      https://www.thebalance.com/cost-of-iraq-war-timeline-economic-impact-3306301

    • Miguel Redondo

      I didn´t know that the future will prove me absolutely right. I spoke about clothmakers…

      https://www.rt.com/usa/393498-pentagon-afghan-uniforms/

      93 million $$ for uniforms to the Afghan Army in FOREST CAMO !!!!!

  • Bob

    This doesn’t bode too well. The executive branch is supposed to take advice and make decisions for the application of the bureaucratic branches – not completely handball the whole decision making process back to them. Sure, Trump has his hands full, with permanent attacks from all over the deep state, but this looks lot like an executive power capitulation, giving the Pentagon – a state bureaucracy – free reign over their own decision and application processes.
    Handing that sort of executive power over to a bureaucratic branch is a case of when, not if, it gets abused or goes awry.

    • Miguel Redondo

      It is directly the abolition of Montesquieu. The dictatorship of burocracy.

      • John Marks

        It’s not as if the Americans weren’t warned:
        Roosevelt 29/4/1938 & Eisenhower 17/1/1961.

    • hhabana

      He is running his government like a business. This is common practice in business. Find capable people, let them do their thing and assess them. I just don’t think he has an idea what to do with Afghanistan. Obviously, all the lives, energy and money has been a waste. Yeah, they got Bin Laden and beat the Taliban back, but the people of Afghanistan must step up and fight or live under their rule. I don’t buy that American training doesn’t work. That’s biased bullshit. It works as with any country, but the people must want the change.

    • Ronald

      The very name back up what you say , “Commander and Chief” .
      So much for civilian oversight .

  • FlorianGeyer

    The US is again after 16 years Doubling Down on Failure. This shows that the US must have planned all of this, as only complete retards would be unable to see that the strategy cannot ever work.

    After 4x the time the US spent fighting WW2 Afghanistan is still plagued by war and the Taliban /ISIS have NO airforce, armoured forces, significant artillery,tactical missiles, major logistics hubs, etc.

    For the US military to have achieved as little as they have after 16 long years it displays the ineptitude of US training and planning.

    • Miguel Redondo

      It depends on the goals you persue. If your goal was to beat the Taliban and ISIS and AlQaeda , then you are right , complete failure of planning.
      But if your goal was to milk the american taxpayer and by the way create an eternal conflict to draw more budget into…. than your planning was really cunning.

      • FlorianGeyer

        If you are correct the US mainland needs cleansing by fire.

      • Ronald

        Traitorous

  • hhabana

    A waste. If the Afghani people cannot fight for themselves, then no amount of training or foreign assistance will assist them in beating the Taliban. Those young guys running to Europe? Send them back.

  • Russell A Wilson

    Trump just sealed the fate of US population. Giving the most lawless military in the world blanket authority to act on its own will eventually turn on its own people. It is just a matter of time.

  • goingbrokes

    Afghanistan… the graveyard of empires! The only way US could save themselves now is to cut their losses and get the hell out. But they are too cocky for that. They are too addicted to the huge illegal opium profits. Too many big mining companies require protection. Too many careers will fall if they pull out. Too many people have died for nothing. Too many have, but you can’t correct the past. But the true culprits are in Washington think tanks! Those are the guilty people who really drive US wars! US cannot have a rational policy unless they deal with the think tanks! The think tank people are the ones that have sunk the US.