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Trump Says He Wants To Hear Afghan War Advice From Rank-And-File Soldiers Instead Of 'Lousy' Generals
During a tense mid-July meeting with his national-security team over the state of the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan, President Donald Trump dismissed the counsel of high-ranking military commanders, saying he leaned toward the advice of rank-and-file soldiers over that of his generals.
According to an NBC News report, Trump singled out Defense Secretary James Mattis, a retired Marine general, saying he had given Mattis authority to make decisions about the war months prior but had seen little progress.
Trump delegated authority to Mattis to set troop levels in Afghanistan in June, though the secretary would need White House permission to send more than 3,900 troops to the war-torn country.
One official told NBC News that Trump's military advisers entered the meeting hoping he would agree to a strategy for the U.S.'s nearly 16-year-old war. But Trump's thinking appeared to have been influenced by another meeting he had with veterans from the war.
"We've been there for now close to 17 years, and I want to find out why we’ve been there for 17 years, how it’s going, and what we should do in terms of additional ideas,” Trump said prior to the meeting with veterans. "I've heard plenty of ideas from a lot of people, but I want to hear it from the people on the ground."
Trump told his national-security advisers that the veterans he met with told him NATO forces deployed to Afghanistan to assist the U.S. had been of little help and complained about China profiting off Afghanistan's estimated $1 trillion in rare minerals — mineral rights China bought years ago with U.S. support.
Trump relayed an anecdote about a troubled restaurant renovation in New York City in the 1980s to highlight how he thought his high-ranking advisers were failing him.
"Officials said Trump kept stressing the idea that lousy advice cost the owner a year of lost business and that talking to the restaurant's waiters instead might have yielded a better result," NBC News reported. "He also said the tendency is to assume if someone isn't a three-star general he doesn't know what he's talking about, and that in his own experience in business talking to low-ranking workers has gotten him better outcomes."
According to NBC News, the restaurant closed for two months in 1987 for a full renovation before reopening to acclaim.
Other Trump advisers have reportedly solicited advice on the war in Afghanistan from Erik Prince, founder of the Blackwater private-security firm. Steve Bannon, Trump's chief strategist, and Jared Kushner, the president's senior adviser and son-in-law, were able to get Prince into a meeting with Mattis in July, but the defense secretary declined to include Prince's ideas in his review of the war.
The meeting left Trump's advisers frustrated and, according to NBC News, ended without a firm decision about the future of Army Gen. John Nicholson, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan.
Nicholson is the 12th person to hold the top job in Afghanistan. He has called the situation there a stalemate and cautioned Congress that more U.S. troops may need to counter outside influence there — from Russia in particular.
Nicholson also decided to drop the U.S.'s "mother of all bombs" — the 21,000-pound GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb — on an ISIS compound in Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan in April.
According to military experts who spoke with NBC News, it would be unwise to rely on input from ground troops to formulate an overarching strategy, particularly in a war like that in Afghanistan.
"They're qualified totally to talk about tactics and things like that and what they're seeing," retired four-star Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey told NBC News, "but the president's job is to formulate strategy and policy not to do tactical decisions."
Since the war began in 2001, at least 2,400 U.S. service members have been killed in or around Afghanistan. Two U.S. service members were killed on Wednesday in a suicide-car-bomb attack on a NATO convoy in southwestern Afghanistan, bringing the total killed this year to 11.
More from Business Insider:
- Trump's new Afghanistan strategy may draw on old, controversial methods
- The Air Force is testing out the B-52 bomber for use in psychological operations
- Trump is deeply skeptical of the Afghan War, and that’s a good thing
- The bloody fight against ISIS in Mosul is over, but a years-long campaign in the city remains
- Blackwater founder Erik Prince reportedly wants Afghanistan to use his private air force
Benjamin Franklin nailed it when he said, "Fatigue is the best pillow." True story, Benny. There's nothing like pushing your body so far past exhaustion that you'd willingly, even longingly, take a nap on a concrete slab.
And no one knows that better than military service members and we have the pictures to prove it.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider.
Former President George W. Bush is calling for an end to the partial government shutdown, which is about to hit the one-month mark and is currently the longest shutdown in US history.
In an appeal made on Instagram, the 43rd president called on "leaders on both sides to put politics aside, come together, and end this shutdown." The caption was posted with an image of him and former First Lady Laura Bush giving pizza to their Secret Service detail.
A special operations Marine is due in court on March 7 after being arrested last year for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend, Task & Purpose has learned.
Staff Sgt. Daniel Christopher Evans was arrested and charged with assault inflicting serious injury on July 29, 2018, according to Jennifer Dandron, a spokeswoman for police in Wilmington, North Carolina. Evans is currently assigned as a Critical Skills Operator with the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, according to the Marine Corps Personnel Locator.
Following Trump's inauguration, some supporters of ground combat integration assumed he would quickly move to reinstate a ban on women in jobs like the infantry. When this did not happen, advocates breathed a collective sigh of relief, and hundreds of qualified women charted a course in history by entering the newly opened occupational fields.
So earlier this week when the Wall Street Journal published an editorial against women in ground combat by conservative political commentator Heather Mac Donald, the inclination of many ground combat integration supporters was to dismiss it outright. But given Trump's proclivity to make knee jerk policy decisions in response to falling approval ratings and the court's tradition of deference to the military when it comes to policies affecting good order and discipline, it would be unwise to assume the 2016 lifting of the ban on women in ground combat is a done deal.