Trump Considers A New Strategy In Afghanistan: Withdrawing

President Donald Trump gives a thumbs up as he walks to the White House after arriving on Marine One, Sunday, March 19, 2017.
AP Images/Alex Brandon

After sending “the generals” scurrying for months to provide him with a strategy for victory in Afghanistan, President Donald Trump is considering another option this morning. Call it the Cartman Strategy: Screw you guys, I’m going home.

A month after Trump gave his defense secretary authority to raise troop levels in Afghanistan, The Wall Street Journal’s Dion Nissenbaum got a peek at the very different internal deliberations from White House insiders July 31:

Unable to agree on a plan to send up to 3,900 more American forces to help turn back Taliban advances in Afghanistan, the White House is taking a new look at what would happen if the U.S. decided to scale back its military presence instead, according to current and former Trump administration officials.

“It’s a macro question as to whether the U.S., this administration, and this president are committed to staying,” one senior administration official said. “It doesn’t work unless we are there for a long time, and if we don’t have the appetite to be there a long time, we should just leave. It’s an unanswered question.”

The news came as ISIS took credit for an orchestrated attack on the Iraqi embassy in Kabul that roiled the Afghan capital Monday morning. It also came on the heels of a months-long strategy review within the White House that reportedly culminated in a “shitshow” meeting two weeks ago, in which Trump nixed a proposal to expand the U.S. troop presence on the ground.

Military commanders across three different administrations have been adamant that securing Afghanistan would require deploying more U.S. service members. Scrapping a modest buildup plan in favor of withdrawing troops could signal that Trump’s had enough of his beleaguered national security advisor, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster. Analysts had hoped McMaster, the beloved counterinsurgency expert might moderate the mercurial president, but he's had difficulty navigating the traditional national security landscape while also indulging Trump’s factually shaky whims.

An Afghanistan withdrawal could also represent a golden financial opportunity for at least one well-positioned friend of the president: Blackwater founder and military contracting maven Erik Prince. Earlier in July, the New York Times reported that Stephen Bannon, the ultranationalist former Breitbart CEO and a presidential adviser, tried unsuccessfully to push Prince’s plan for privatizing the Afghanistan war onto Mattis.

Related: This Afghan War Plan By The Guy Who Founded Blackwater Should Scare The Hell Out Of You »

That plan, which basically would appoint a colonial “viceroy” to “quickly replace most U.S. troops with contractors who would help carry out airstrikes,” hasn’t been taken seriously by McMaster or Mattis. One senior military official who spoke with WSJ called withdrawal from Afghanistan a “low minority view,” adding that it was a bad idea “because it doesn’t address the primary concerns of getting to a point where Afghanistan is able to secure itself.”

But WSJ also reports that Prince — the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and a minor player in the pre-inauguration Russia-Trump conspiracy theories — now has an opening to lobby the president.

What Trump actually wants in Afghanistan, besides gratitude from the American electorate, is anyone’s guess. The night of his inauguration, he told a group of Afghanistan soldiers via video link to “keep fighting. We're going to win. We're going to win. I have your back.” After U.S. forces dropped their largest conventional munition, the Massive Ordnance Air Blast, on an ISIS position in Afghanistan in April, Trump bragged that he was stepping up the U.S. war effort there. “If you compare the last eight weeks to what's happened over the last eight years, big difference,” he said. As a presidential candidate, Trump also agreed with Bill O’Reilly that the U.S. needed to keep at least 10,000 troops in Afghanistan — 8,400 are currently there — and called President Obama “the founder of ISIS” because of “the way he got out of Iraq.”

But as a private citizen, Trump often appeared to advocate a total troop pullout, saying in 2011 that “we are wasting lives and money in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

“We have wasted an enormous amount of blood and treasure in Afghanistan,” the president-to-be again tweeted in 2013. “Their government has zero appreciation. Let's get out!”


The FBI is treating the recent shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, as a terrorist attack, several media outlets reported on Sunday.

"We work with the presumption that this was an act of terrorism," USA Today quoted FBI Agent Rachel Rojas as saying at a news conference.

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WASHINGTON/SEOUL (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump said on Sunday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un risks losing "everything" if he resumes hostility and his country must denuclearize, after the North said it had carried out a "successful test of great significance."

"Kim Jong Un is too smart and has far too much to lose, everything actually, if he acts in a hostile way. He signed a strong Denuclearization Agreement with me in Singapore," Trump said on Twitter, referring to his first summit with Kim in Singapore in 2018.

"He does not want to void his special relationship with the President of the United States or interfere with the U.S. Presidential Election in November," he said.

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(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Vaughan Dill/Released)

The three sailors whose lives were cut short by a gunman at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, on Friday "showed exceptional heroism and bravery in the face of evil," said base commander Navy Capt. Tim Kinsella.

Ensign Joshua Kaleb Watson, Airman Mohammed Sameh Haitham, and Airman Apprentice Cameron Scott Walters were killed in the shooting, the Navy has announced.

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The Pentagon has a credibility problem that is the result of the White House's scorched earth policy against any criticism. As a result, all statements from senior leaders are suspect.

We're beyond the point of defense officials being unable to say for certain whether a dog is a good boy or girl. Now we're at the point where the Pentagon has spent three days trying to knock down a Wall Street Journal story about possible deployments to the Middle East, and they've failed to persuade either the press or Congress.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday that the United States was considering deploying up to 14,000 troops to the Middle East to thwart any potential Iranian attacks. The story made clear that President Trump could ultimately decide to send a smaller number of service members, but defense officials have become fixated on the number 14,000 as if it were the only option on the table.

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This article originally appeared on Business Insider.

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. – Gen. David Berger, the US Marine Corps commandant, suggested the concerns surrounding a service members' use of questionable Chinese-owned apps like TikTok should be directed against the military's leadership, rather than the individual troops.

Speaking at the Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, California, on Saturday morning, Berger said the younger generation of troops had a "clearer view" of the technology "than most people give them credit for."

"That said, I'd give us a 'C-minus' or a 'D' in educating the force on the threat of even technology," Berger said. "Because they view it as two pieces of gear, 'I don't see what the big deal is.'"

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