Memo Reveals Trump Isn't Telling The Full Story On Afghan Troop Levels

news
President Donald Trump and Secretary of Defense James Mattis
Photo via AP

President Donald Trump made headlines last month when he promised Secretary of Defense James Mattis and his generals would be given “full control” to deploy additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan as they saw fit. But today, the Wall Street Journal revealed that Trump’s promise wasn’t as advertised: The White House privately told defense planners they’d better not deploy more than 3,900 new service members.


That’s according to an internal memorandum circulated by the White House just days after the Trump administration garnered plaudits from media commentators for “letting the generals decide” how to proceed in Afghanistan, the Journal reports:

The memo, sent to a small group of administration officials from national security adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, said that the president would let Defense Secretary Jim Mattis send no more than 3,900 troops to Afghanistan without coming back to confer with the White House, according to people familiar with the document.

Around the same time that memo was circulated, an anonymous “Trump administration official” told the Associated Press that Mattis was sending “almost 4,000 additional American forces to Afghanistan.” The Pentagon swiftly pushed back against that report, saying that Mattis had “made no decision on a troop increase in Afghanistan.”

The McMaster memo limiting troop increases “came as a surprise to some administration officials who were under the impression that the White House would impose no such restrictions,” the Journal reports. Indeed, Trump campaigned heavily on the promise that his administration wouldn’t micromanage troop levels in the war zones in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan, as President Barack Obama was often accused of doing.

“What I do is I authorize my military,” Trump said in an April press conference. “We have the greatest military in the world, and they’ve done the job, as usual. We have given them total authorization, and that’s what they’re doing.”

But the memo unearthed by the Journal suggests that Trump, like Obama, is continuing to impose “force management levels” — caps on deployment numbers — on his commanders from above, even as he’s claimed “a tremendous difference” between his generals’ freedom to wage war and their freedom under Obama.

Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White downplayed the memo’s significance in a response to the Journal. “A number doesn’t really tell you anything,” she said. “It requires a greater context, and if you are sending sons and daughters to Afghanistan, you owe it to them to lay out what’s the way forward, not just a number.”

So far, the White House has yet to fully articulate that way forward — a deficiency that even military hawks in Trump’s party are unhappy about.

“We’re now six months into this administration. We still haven’t got a strategy for Afghanistan,” Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told Mattis in a Senate hearing last month, adding: “It makes it hard for us to support you when we don’t have a strategy.”

WATCH MORE:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday told North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to "act quickly" to reach a deal with the United States, in a tweet weighing in on North Korea's criticism of his political rival former Vice President Joe Biden.

Trump, who has met Kim three times since 2018 over ending the North's missile and nuclear programs, addressed Kim directly, referring to the one-party state's ruler as "Mr. Chairman".

In his tweet, Trump told Kim, "You should act quickly, get the deal done," and hinted at a further meeting, signing off "See you soon!"

Read More Show Less

It is impossible to tune out news about the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump now that the hearings have become public. And this means that cable news networks and Congress are happier than pigs in manure: this story will dominate the news for the foreseeable future unless Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt get back together.

But the wall-to-wall coverage of impeachment mania has also created a news desert. To those of you who would rather emigrate to North Korea than watch one more lawmaker grandstand for the cameras, I humbly offer you an oasis of news that has absolutely nothing to do with Washington intrigue.

Read More Show Less

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia will return three captured naval ships to Ukraine on Monday and is moving them to a handover location agreed with Kiev, Crimea's border guard service was cited as saying by Russian news agencies on Sunday.

A Reuters reporter in Crimea, which Russian annexed from Ukraine in 2014, earlier on Sunday saw coastguard boats pulling the three vessels through the Kerch Strait toward the Black Sea where they could potentially be handed over to Ukraine.

Read More Show Less

There's a joke that Joey Jones likes to use when he feels the need to ease the tension in a room or in his own head.

To calm himself down, he uses it to remind himself of the obstacles he's had to overcome. When he faces challenges today — big or small — it brings him back to a time when the stakes were higher.

Jones will feel out a room before using the line. For nearly a decade, Jones, 33, has told his story to thousands of people, given motivational speeches to NFL teams and acted alongside a three-time Academy Award-winning actor.

On Tuesday afternoon, he stood at the front of a classroom at his alma mater, Southeast Whitfield High School in Georgia. The room was crowded with about 30 honor students.

It took about 20 minutes, but Jones started to get more comfortable as the room warmed up to him. A student asked about how he deals with post-traumatic stress disorder.

"I believe in post-traumatic growth," Jones said. "That means you go through tough and difficult situations and on the back end through recovery, you learn strength."

Read More Show Less

It didn't take long for a central theme to emerge at the funeral of U.S. Marine Pfc. Joseph Livermore, an event attended by hundreds of area residents Friday at Union Cemetery in Bakersfield.

It's a theme that stems from a widespread local belief that the men and women who have served in the nation's armed forces are held in particularly high esteem here in the southern valley.

"In Bakersfield and Kern County, we celebrate our veterans like no place else on Earth," Bakersfield Chief of Police Lyle Martin told the gathering of mourners.

Read More Show Less