Trump looking to avoid being trapped by Afghan tar baby

Donald Trump has been grappling with the question of what the U.S. should do in Afghanistan to salvage a worsening security and political situation.  He has tasked several top aides to come up with a winning strategy and met several times with his top generals.

What Trump has come to understand is that the only "winning" strategy involves sending thousands more American troops to the country, potentially further entangling the U.S. in what some observers say could be a losing cause.

For Trump, this is unacceptable.  At a recent meeting of generals tasked with prosecuting the Afghan war, he expressed his displeasure with the options being presented to him and is worried that the U.S. may be losing the war.

NBC News:

During the July 19 meeting, Trump repeatedly suggested that Defense Secretary James Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford replace Gen. John Nicholson, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, because he is not winning the war, the officials said. Trump has not met Nicholson, and the Pentagon has been considering extending his time in Afghanistan.

Over nearly two hours in the situation room, according to the officials, Trump complained about NATO allies, inquired about the United States getting a piece of Afghan’s mineral wealth and repeatedly said the top U.S. general there should be fired. He also startled the room with a story that seemed to compare their advice to that of a paid consultant who cost a tony New York restaurateur profits by offering bad advice.

Trump is the third president to grapple with the war in Afghanistan. On Wednesday, two American troops were killed in Afghanistan when a convoy they were in came under attack. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

Trump's national security team has been trying for months to come up with a new strategy he can approve. Those advisers are set to meet again to discuss the issue on Thursday at the White House. The president is not currently scheduled to attend the meeting, though one official said that could change.

Former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush went through multiple strategies over the course of their presidencies to try to stabilize Afghanistan. What set Trump apart in the July meeting was his open questioning of the quality of the advice he was receiving.

During the meeting, Trump criticized his military advisers seated around the table in the White House Situation Room for what he said was a losing U.S. position in the war, according to the senior administration officials. At one point the president directed his frustration at Mattis, saying Trump had given the military authority months ago to make advances in Afghanistan and yet the U.S. was continuing to lose ground, the officials said.

Trump wants results, and he's not getting any.  He wants advice, and he thinks he's getting bad advice.  He wants a viable plan for victory, and he's not getting it.

I think it's pretty clear that there is a lack of boldness on the part of Trump's military leaders – probably the result of eight years sitting at the table with the indecisive and timid Obama.  It is a legitimate question for the commander in chief to ask if he has the right people in the job.

For Obama, the Afghan war was always more of a political problem than a military one.  Obama was terrified of sending more troops because he feared large numbers of casualties and the resulting loss of political support.  Needless to say, this is no way to fight a war and win it.

But is the Afghan war winnable?  The hands raised against the Afghan government – weak and corrupt as it is – have increased in recent years with the rise of ISIS and the growing strength of the Taliban.  The NATO-trained Afghan army is not up to securing the provinces from the Taliban, and the national police force seems incapable of dealing with ISIS terror attacks.

So the president has a huge decision to make.  A lot of American blood and treasure have been spent in Afghanistan since 2001, and it would be painful to withdraw and make the sacrifices of our soldiers almost meaningless.  But at what point does the president look at Afghanistan and decide we've done our best and it's time to leave?

I think Trump wants to make one last supreme effort to turn around the security situation – but he wants to do it without sending tens of thousands of Americans into the country.  If NATO were a real alliance, we'd get more help from its other members.  But they don't want to deal with the rabid left wing in their own countries, who would make their lives miserable if they committed combat troops to a renewed effort to pacify the country.

The U.S. – as it always has been in Afghanistan – is on its own.

Donald Trump has been grappling with the question of what the U.S. should do in Afghanistan to salvage a worsening security and political situation.  He has tasked several top aides to come up with a winning strategy and met several times with his top generals.

What Trump has come to understand is that the only "winning" strategy involves sending thousands more American troops to the country, potentially further entangling the U.S. in what some observers say could be a losing cause.

For Trump, this is unacceptable.  At a recent meeting of generals tasked with prosecuting the Afghan war, he expressed his displeasure with the options being presented to him and is worried that the U.S. may be losing the war.

NBC News:

During the July 19 meeting, Trump repeatedly suggested that Defense Secretary James Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford replace Gen. John Nicholson, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, because he is not winning the war, the officials said. Trump has not met Nicholson, and the Pentagon has been considering extending his time in Afghanistan.

Over nearly two hours in the situation room, according to the officials, Trump complained about NATO allies, inquired about the United States getting a piece of Afghan’s mineral wealth and repeatedly said the top U.S. general there should be fired. He also startled the room with a story that seemed to compare their advice to that of a paid consultant who cost a tony New York restaurateur profits by offering bad advice.

Trump is the third president to grapple with the war in Afghanistan. On Wednesday, two American troops were killed in Afghanistan when a convoy they were in came under attack. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

Trump's national security team has been trying for months to come up with a new strategy he can approve. Those advisers are set to meet again to discuss the issue on Thursday at the White House. The president is not currently scheduled to attend the meeting, though one official said that could change.

Former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush went through multiple strategies over the course of their presidencies to try to stabilize Afghanistan. What set Trump apart in the July meeting was his open questioning of the quality of the advice he was receiving.

During the meeting, Trump criticized his military advisers seated around the table in the White House Situation Room for what he said was a losing U.S. position in the war, according to the senior administration officials. At one point the president directed his frustration at Mattis, saying Trump had given the military authority months ago to make advances in Afghanistan and yet the U.S. was continuing to lose ground, the officials said.

Trump wants results, and he's not getting any.  He wants advice, and he thinks he's getting bad advice.  He wants a viable plan for victory, and he's not getting it.

I think it's pretty clear that there is a lack of boldness on the part of Trump's military leaders – probably the result of eight years sitting at the table with the indecisive and timid Obama.  It is a legitimate question for the commander in chief to ask if he has the right people in the job.

For Obama, the Afghan war was always more of a political problem than a military one.  Obama was terrified of sending more troops because he feared large numbers of casualties and the resulting loss of political support.  Needless to say, this is no way to fight a war and win it.

But is the Afghan war winnable?  The hands raised against the Afghan government – weak and corrupt as it is – have increased in recent years with the rise of ISIS and the growing strength of the Taliban.  The NATO-trained Afghan army is not up to securing the provinces from the Taliban, and the national police force seems incapable of dealing with ISIS terror attacks.

So the president has a huge decision to make.  A lot of American blood and treasure have been spent in Afghanistan since 2001, and it would be painful to withdraw and make the sacrifices of our soldiers almost meaningless.  But at what point does the president look at Afghanistan and decide we've done our best and it's time to leave?

I think Trump wants to make one last supreme effort to turn around the security situation – but he wants to do it without sending tens of thousands of Americans into the country.  If NATO were a real alliance, we'd get more help from its other members.  But they don't want to deal with the rabid left wing in their own countries, who would make their lives miserable if they committed combat troops to a renewed effort to pacify the country.

The U.S. – as it always has been in Afghanistan – is on its own.

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