Posts Tagged ‘Mattis’

China Says Threats Cannot Help Resolve Korean Situation

September 19, 2017

BEIJING — Threatening action or rhetoric cannot help resolve the situation on the Korean peninsula, China’s foreign ministry said on Tuesday, after U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis hinted about the existence of military options on North Korea.

Ministry spokesman Lu Kang made the comments at a regular briefing in Beijing.

Asked about potential U.S. military options that might not put the South Korean capital, Seoul, at risk, Mattis said on Monday there were but declined to give details.

Seoul is within artillery range of North Korea, which is also believed to have a sizable chemical and biological arsenal beyond nuclear and conventional weapons.

(Reporting by Michael Martina; Writing by Christian Shepherd; Editing by Paul Tait)


Trump weighing aggressive Iran strategy — More than 80 experts urge Trump not to abandon Iran nuclear deal

September 14, 2017

WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – President Donald Trump is weighing a strategy that could allow more aggressive U.S. responses to Iran’s forces, its Shi’ite Muslim proxies in Iraq and Syria, and its support for militant groups, according to six current and former U.S. officials.

The proposal was prepared by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, national security adviser H.R. McMaster and other top officials, and presented to Trump at a National Security Council meeting on Friday, the sources said.

It could be agreed and made public before the end of September, two of the sources said. All of the sources are familiar with the draft and requested anonymity because Trump has yet to act on it.

RELATED: US-Iran relations through time

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United States and Iran Relations throughout time

In contrast to detailed instructions handed down by President Barack Obama and some of his predecessors, Trump is expected to set broad strategic objectives and goals for U.S. policy but leave it to U.S. military commanders, diplomats and other U.S. officials to implement the plan, said a senior administration official.

“Whatever we end up with, we want to implement with allies to the greatest extent possible,” the official added.

The White House declined to comment.

The plan is intended to increase the pressure on Tehran to curb its ballistic missile programs and support for militants, several sources said.

“I would call it a broad strategy for the range of Iranian malign activities: financial materials, support for terror, destabilization in the region, especially Syria and Iraq and Yemen,” said another senior administration official.

The proposal also targets cyber espionage and other activity and potentially nuclear proliferation, the official said.

The administration is still debating a new stance on a 2015 agreement, sealed by Obama, to curb Iran’s nuclear weapons program. The draft urges consideration of tougher economic sanctions if Iran violates the 2015 agreement.

The proposal includes more aggressive U.S. interceptions of Iranian arms shipments such as those to Houthi rebels in Yemen and Palestinian groups in Gaza and Egypt’s Sinai, a current official and a knowledgeable former U.S. official said.

The plan also recommends the United States react more aggressively in Bahrain, whose Sunni Muslim monarchy has been suppressing majority Shi’ites, who are demanding reforms, the sources said.

In addition, U.S. naval forces could react more forcefully when harassed by armed speed boats operated by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Iran’s paramilitary and espionage contingent, three of the sources said.

U.S. ships have fired flares and warning shots to drive off IRGC boats that made what were viewed as threatening approaches after refusing to heed radio warnings in the passageway for 35 percent of the world’s seaborne petroleum exports.

U.S. commanders now are permitted to open fire only when they think their vessels and the lives of their crews are endangered. The sources offered no details of the proposed changes in the rules, which are classified.


The plan does not include an escalation of U.S. military activity in Syria and Iraq. Trump’s national security aides argued that a more muscular military response to Iranian proxies in Syria and Iraq would complicate the U.S.-led fight against Islamic State, which they argued should remain the top priority, four of the sources said.

Mattis and McMaster, as well as the heads of the U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Forces Command, have opposed allowing U.S. commanders in Syria and Iraq to react more forcefully to provocations by the IRGC, Hezbollah and other Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias, the four sources said.

The advisers are concerned that more permissive rules of engagement would divert U.S. forces from defeating the remnants of Islamic State, they said.

RELATED: Ballistic missile testing in Iran

Moreover, looser rules could embroil the United States in a conflict with Iran while U.S. forces remain overstretched, and Trump has authorized a small troop increase for Afghanistan, said one senior administration official.

A former U.S. official said Hezbollah and Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias in Iraq have been “very helpful” in recapturing vast swaths of the caliphate that Islamic State declared in Syria and Iran in 2014.

U.S. troops supporting Kurdish and Sunni Arab fighters battling Islamic State in Syria have been wrestling with how to respond to hostile actions by Iranian-backed forces.

In some of the most notable cases, U.S. aircraft shot down two Iranian-made drones in June. Both were justified as defensive acts narrowly tailored to halt an imminent threat on the ground.


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Trump’s opposition to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), poses a dilemma for policymakers.

Most of his national security aides favor remaining in the pact, as do U.S. allies Israel and Saudi Arabia despite their reservations about Iran’s adherence to the agreement, said U.S. officials involved in the discussions.

“The main issue for us was to get the president not to discard the JCPOA. But he had very strong feelings, backed by (U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations) Nikki Haley, that they should be more aggressive with Iran,” one of the two U.S. officials said. “Almost all the strategies presented to him were ones that tried to preserve the JCPOA but lean forward on these other (issues.)”


(Writing by Jonathan Landay.; Reporting by Arshad Mohammed,Jonathan Landay, and Steve Holland.; Additional reporting by Phil Stewart and John Walcott; Editing by Howard Goller)

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Donald Trump is pictured here. | Getty Images
President Donald Trump’s administration has been reviewing the Iran nuclear deal. | Andrew Harrer/Getty Images

More than 80 experts urge Trump not to abandon Iran nuclear deal

More than 80 experts on nuclear proliferation urged the Trump administration not to abandon the Iran nuclear deal in a statement on Wednesday.

The agreement, which was negotiated under former President Barack Obama in 2015, ended several sanctions against Iran in exchange for that country taking steps to dismantle its nuclear program. Iran is subject to regular inspections to monitor whether it adheres to those rules under terms of the agreement.

The signatories, which include many academics and some former State Department officials, wrote that they are “concerned by statements from the Trump administration that it may be seeking to create a false pretext for accusing Iran of noncooperation or noncompliance with the agreement in order to trigger the re-imposition of nuclear-related sanctions against Iran.”

Last week, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley described the deal as a “very flawed and very limited agreement” and contended that “Iran has been caught in multiple violations over the past year and a half.”

The experts who signed the letter, though, described the agreement as “an effective and verifiable arrangement that is a net plus for international nuclear nonproliferation efforts” and warned against leaving it.

“Abandoning the deal without clear evidence of an unresolved material breach by Iran that is corroborated by the other EU3+3 partners runs the risk that Tehran would resume some of its nuclear activities, such as enriching uranium to higher levels or increasing the number of operating centrifuges,” they wrote. “These steps would decrease the time it would take for Iran to obtain enough nuclear material for a warhead.”

President Donald Trump was a critic of the Iran deal as a candidate, but he has not taken steps to abandon it since taking office. His administration, however, has been reviewing the deal.

U.S. Says It Has 11,000 Troops in Afghanistan, More Than Formerly Disclosed

August 31, 2017

WASHINGTON — The United States has about 11,000 troops in Afghanistan, the Pentagon said on Wednesday, acknowledging for the first time publicly that the total forces there are higher than formally disclosed in recent years.

Previously, Defense Department officials had said 8,400 troops were in Afghanistan as part of NATO’s Resolute Support mission. An additional 2,000 American troops, which military officials have not publicly acknowledged, are in Afghanistan to help local forces conduct counterterrorism missions.

The new count includes covert as well as temporary units, defense officials said.

The disclosure came after Defense Secretary Jim Mattis expressed frustration with how troops in war zones were counted. To get around Obama-era restrictions on the number of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, commanders sometimes resorted to ad hoc arrangements.

“The secretary has determined we must simplify our accounting methodology and improve the public’s understanding of America’s military commitment in Afghanistan,” said Dana W. White, the Pentagon’s chief spokeswoman.

Before Mr. Mattis sends 4,000 more troops to Afghanistan, as he is expected to do under President Trump’s new strategy for the war there, he has said he wants to know how many troops are on the ground.

“The first thing I have to do is level the bubble and account for everybody who’s on the ground there now,” Mr. Mattis told reporters last week. “The idea being that we’re not going to have different buckets that we’re accounting for them in, to tell you what the total number is.”

Read the rest:

US defence chief in Turkey for talks on Syria, Kurds

August 23, 2017

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis with President Masoud Barzani of Iraq’s Kurdish autonomous region on Tuesday in Erbil. CreditAzad Lashkari/Reuters

ANKARA (AFP) – Pentagon chief Jim Mattis arrived in Ankara on Wednesday for talks with Turkish leaders expected to focus on Washington’s arming of a Syrian Kurdish militia, which Turkey views as a terror group, in the fight against Islamic State.Mattis flew in for the one-day visit after stopping in Iraq to review progress in the campaign against IS militants, where he urged coalition partners to prevent other political issues from disrupting the growing momentum against the jihadists.

In Ankara, he will hold talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Defence Minister Nurettin Canikli.

Turkey, an important NATO ally of the United States and part of the coalition against IS, is incensed that Washington has been arming the Kurdish Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG) militias in the assault on the jihadists’ stronghold Raqa, in northern Syria.

Turkey regards the YPG as the Syrian affiliate of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

In May, the Pentagon said it had begun transferring small arms and vehicles to the YPG to support their role as part of the Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish-Syrian Arab alliance fighting IS.

The weapons include AK-47s and small-calibre machine guns.

The SDF is currently leading the assault on Raqa, with artillery and air support from US-led coalition forces.

– Kurdish referendum concerns –

US officials on Tuesday said the grinding fight was the “priority” in the counter-IS campaign since the fall of Mosul last month, the jihadists’ Iraqi hub.

The Kurdish regional government in northern Iraq — which is also playing a key role in the fight against IS — is planning its own independence referendum in September.

Mattis met Tuesday with Iraqi Kurdish leader Massud Barzani in Erbil to express US opposition to the referendum.

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On the same day, Erdogan vowed Turkey would thwart any attempt by the YPG and its political wing the Democratic Union Party (PYD) to carve out a Kurdish state in northern Syria.

“We do not and will never allow a so-called state to be established by the PYD, YPG in northern Syria,” Erdogan said.

The US is also concerned about warming ties between Iran and Turkey. Iranian armed forces chief General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri visited Turkey last week.

Erdogan on Monday said a joint operation with Iran against Kurdish militants which “pose a threat,” including the PKK, is “always on the agenda.” Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, however, denied the claim.

Trump’s ‘America First’ Base Unhappy with Flip-Flop Afghanistan Speech — “It doesn’t matter who you vote for. The military-industrial complex wins.”

August 22, 2017

Trump’s speech, in which he pledged to increase the number of troops in the 16-year-war, was the first since the departure of Chief Strategist Steve Bannon and confirmed the fears of many on the right that without a strong nationalist voice in the West Wing, the President would revert to the same old fare that Americans had voted to reject in November.

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Using many of the same vague promises that previous presidents had used, including a repeat of Obama’s promise not to give a “blank check” to Afghanistan and a pledge to finally get tough on Pakistan, it was a far cry from the “America First” foreign policy he laid out in the months before election day.

Conservative commentator Ann Coulter, who had been an enthusiastic supporter of Trump during the campaign and penned a book called In Trump we Trust, summed up the weariness of the nationalist right when she tweeted: “It doesn’t matter who you vote for. The military-industrial complex wins.”

It doesn’t matter who you vote for. The military-industrial complex wins. Only difference: GOP presidents pronounce “Pakistan” correctly.

Even Trump himself admitted he had flip-flopped on his foreign policy, saying in the address that his original instinct was to pull out of the country, but that he had been convinced otherwise.

On Fox News, which has traditionally been supportive of military escapades, the reaction was mixed. While on-air the reception was broadly positive, other commentators weren’t convinced. Fox News Radio’s Todd Starnes accused the president of changing his campaign promise from “America First” to “Afghanistan First.”

This is a fine speech — but President Trump campaigned on getting us OUT of Afghanistan.

Other right-wingers also reacted negatively to the speech, noting what a contrast the new plan is from Trump’s rhetoric on the campaign trail.

I am not a neocon. I am not an isolationist. It’s time time to leave Afghanistan. Completely disappointed Trump is not pulling us out.

Trump on Afghanistan: “My instinct was to withdraw” – & then the War Party got to him. From America First to America Last – didn’t take long

Radio host Stefan Molyneux contrasted Trump’s speech with statements he had made on Twitter on Afghanistan before.

Filmmaker and author Mike Cernovich sarcastically offered his congratulations to “President McMaster” and “General Jared,” referring to Trump’s national security adviser and senior adviser respectively.


Even moderate conservatives struggled to drum up enthusiasm for Trump’s policy, with right-leaning Washington Post reporter Robert Costa giving a luke-warm reception to the plan.

This is a speech wrapped in layers of non-interventionist rhetoric, sprinkled with Queens and “Patton”-type bravado, delivered gently.

This is a president sans doctrine, torn between his militaristic id and his non-interventionist instincts, tilting toward the former.

Costa noted, in particular, the contrast between some of the rhetoric from Trump, and the plan itself, tweeting: “Trump is echoing many of the points Bannon made behind the scenes. But he has gone along w/ a version of McMaster-Mattis plan.”

Adam Shaw is a Breitbart News politics reporter based in New York. Follow Adam on Twitter:  @AdamShawNY

Analysis: Trump vows to win the seemingly unwinnable war

August 22, 2017

The Associated Press

Donald Trump

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is vowing to win what has seemed to be an unwinnable war.

How he plans to do so is still murky despite the months of internal deliberations that ultimately persuaded Trump to stick with a conflict he has long opposed.

In a 26-minute address to the nation Monday, Trump alluded to more American troops deploying to Afghanistan, but refused to say how many. He said victory would be well-defined, but outlined only vague benchmarks for success, like dismantling al-Qaida and preventing the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan. He said the U.S. would not offer Afghanistan a “blank check,” but provided no specific timetable for the end of an American commitment that has already lasted 16 years.

Instead, Trump projected an “I got this” bravado that has become a hallmark of his presidency.

“In the end, we will win,” he declared of America’s longest war.

Victory in Afghanistan has eluded Trump’s predecessors: President George W. Bush, who launched the war after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, and President Barack Obama, who surged U.S. troop levels to 100,000, but ultimately failed in fulfilling his promise to bring the conflict to a close before leaving office.

President Donald Trump gave a prime time address Monday announcing a policy shift on Afghanistan and South Asia. Jarrett Blanc, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, argues Trump’s announcement marked little change. (Aug. 21)

As Trump now takes his turn at the helm, he faces many of the same challenges that have bedeviled those previous presidents and left some U.S. officials deeply uncertain about whether victory is indeed possible.

Afghanistan remains one of the world’s poorest countries and corruption is embedded in its politics. The Taliban is resurgent. And Afghan forces remain too weak to secure the country without American help.

“When we had 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, we couldn’t secure the whole country,” said Ben Rhodes, who served as Obama’s deputy national security adviser.

Trump offered up many of the same solutions tried by his predecessors. He vowed to get tough on neighboring Pakistan, to push for reforms in Afghanistan and to moderate ambitions. The U.S. will not be caught in the quagmire of democracy-building abroad, he said, promising a “principled realism” focused only on U.S. interests would guide his decisions.

Obama promised much of the same.

By simply sticking with the Afghan conflict, Trump’s plan amounts to a victory for the military men increasingly filling Trump’s inner circle and a stinging defeat for the nationalist supporters who saw in Trump a like-minded skeptic of U.S. intervention in long and costly overseas conflicts. Chief among them is ousted adviser Steve Bannon, whose website Breitbart News blared criticism Monday of the establishment’s approach to running he war.

After Trump’s speech, one headline on the website read: “’UNLIMITED WAR.” Another said: “What Does Victory in Afghanistan Look Like? Washington Doesn’t Know.”

Now Trump leads Washington and that question falls for him to answer. As a candidate, he energized millions of war-weary voters with an “America First” mantra and now faces the challenges of explaining how that message translates to U.S. involvement in a war across the globe, likely for years to come.

In a rare moment of public self-reflection, Trump acknowledged that his position on Afghanistan had changed since taking office and sought to sway his supporters who would normally oppose a continuation of the war.

“My original instinct was to pull out,” Trump said. “But all my life I’ve heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office, in other words, when you’re president of the United States.”

Trump pointed to “three fundamental conclusions” about U.S. interests in Afghanistan — all of which appeal to patriotism and nationalistic pride.

The president said the nation needs to seek “an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the tremendous sacrifices” made by U.S. soldiers — a line that harkened back to promises made by Richard Nixon during the 1968 campaign to bring “an honorable end” to the war in Vietnam.

Trump also warned that a rapid exit would create a vacuum that terrorists like the Islamic State group and al-Qaida would fill, leading to conditions similar to before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. And he noted that the security threats in Afghanistan are “immense,” and made the case that it is key to protecting the U.S.

The U.S. currently has about 8,400 troops in Afghanistan. Pentagon officials proposed plans to send in nearly 4,000 more to boost training and advising of the Afghan forces and bolster counterterrorism operations against the Taliban and an Islamic State group affiliate trying to gain a foothold in the country.

To those U.S. service members, Trump promised nothing short of success.

“The men and women who serve our nation in combat deserve a plan for victory,” he said. “They deserve the tools they need and the trust they have earned to fight and to win.”


EDITOR’S NOTE — Washington Bureau Chief Julie Pace has covered the White House and politics for The Associated Press since 2007. Follow her at .

Ken Thomas has covered the White House and national politics for the AP since 2011. Follow him at .


Trump Takes New Tack in Afghanistan Fight

August 22, 2017

President, heeding advisers, will add more troops and increase pressure on Pakistan

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Updated Aug. 21, 2017 11:48 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump said Monday he would expand the U.S. role in Afghanistan while taking a new approach that is tougher on neighboring Pakistan and doesn’t telegraph American military strategy.

In a 30-minute nationally televised speech, Mr. Trump acknowledged that his initial instinct as president had been to pull out of Afghanistan. But, concluding he must bow to realities, he outlined a new South Asia strategy…

ABC News
Aug 22, 2017, 12:51 AM ET

President Donald Trump announced on Monday night his administration’s plans to continue the engagement of the United States military in Afghanistan, a strategy meant to combat the influence of the Taliban and the ISIS affiliate in the country that will forgo a formal timetable and instead rely upon “conditions on the ground” to guide U.S. activities.

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“We must acknowledge the reality I’m here to talk about tonight, that nearly 16 years after the September 11 attacks, after the extraordinary sacrifice of blood and treasure, the American people are weary of war without victory,” said Trump in an address from Virginia’s Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall.

The president’s announcement follows meetings with military advisers and his national security team at Camp David on Saturday. In June, he gave Secretary of Defense James Mattis the authority to set troops levels in Afghanistan, after providing the defense chief with similar authority in Iraq and Syria.

Though Trump avoided specific reference to an increase in the number of service members in his remarks, Mattis indicated that the U.S. would heightening its involvement.

“I have directed the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to make preparations to carry out the president’s strategy,” Mattis said Monday in a statement from Jordan, where he is traveling this week.

“I will be in consultation with the Secretary General of NATO and our allies — several of which have also committed to increasing their troop numbers,” he added. “Together, we will assist the Afghan Security Forces to destroy the terrorist hub.”

Though the deepening of U.S. participation would amount to a reversal of the position he held prior to his bid for the presidency, Trump has also demonstrated a willingness to engage militarily in the region through the first seven months of his presidency.

“My original instinct was to pull out, and historically I like following my instincts,” said Trump Monday night. “But all of my life I heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office.”

Despite official combat operations ceasing in 2014, the U.S. continues to guide and train the Afghan military, and in April dropped a 22,000 pound “mother of all bombs” on ISIS-occupied caves there.

Currently, about 8,400 American troops are stationed in Afghanistan in an advisory capacity. Several thousand U.S. personnel are also engaged in counterterror operations against al Qaeda and ISIS-Khorasan, the group’s affiliate in Afghanistan.

Top U.S. military officials, including Mattis, support sending as many as 4,000 additional soldiers as part of a broader revamp of regional strategy, though Trump continued to tout the advantages of secrecy — a position he took during last year’s presidential campaign.

“We will not talk about numbers of troops, or our plans for further military activities,” said the president, later adding, “America’s enemies must never know our plans, or believe they can wait us out.”

“I will not say when we are going to attack, but attack we will,” he said.

In February, Army Gen. John Nicholson, the top U.S. official leading the international coalition in Afghanistan, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the mission had a “shortfall of a few thousand” troops.

In his first formal address since his speech in February to a joint session of Congress, Trump commented upon the role he expects nations in the region surrounding Afghanistan to play, placing particular emphasis on the actions of Pakistan, which he accused of “harbor[ing] terrorists.”

“We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations, the Taliban, and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond,” he said. “Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan.”

But while Trump promised Monday to support the armed forces with “every weapon to apply swift, decisive and overwhelming force,” he also said that the U.S. commitment was “not a blank check.”

“The government of Afghanistan must carry their share of the military, political, and economic burden,” said the president. “The American people expect to see real reforms, real progress, and real results. Our patience is not unlimited.”

“Afghans will secure and build their own nation and define their own future,” he added on Monday night. “We want them to succeed but we will no longer use American military might to construct democracies in faraway lands, or try to rebuild other countries in our own image. Those days are over.”

In a statement released Monday night, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the new strategy signals clear support for the Afghan people and government.

“We will continue to support the Afghan government and security forces in their fight against terrorists and prevent the reestablishment of safe havens in the country,” he said. “Our new strategy breaks from previous approaches that set artificial calendar-based deadlines. We are making clear to the Taliban that they will not win on the battlefield. The Taliban has a path to peace and political legitimacy through a negotiated political settlement to end the war.”

The Taliban issued a statement responding to President Trumps’s remarks, saying the “the U.S. didn’t show any interest in finishing its long war in Afghanistan & they still insist on continuing fighting in Afghanistan & presence of American forces. But we want to say until one American soldier is remain in Afghanistan we will continue our struggle & fight against them.”

The president’s decision to increase the U.S. military posture in Afghanistan contrasts sharply with his position from as early as 2012, four years prior to his election, when he said with frequency on social media that the U.S. should “get out of Afghanistan” and that it has “wasted an enormous amount of blood and treasure.”

How many more of our soldiers have to be shot by the Afghanis they are training? Let’s get the hell out of there and focus on U.S.

We have wasted an enormous amount of blood and treasure in Afghanistan. Their government has zero appreciation. Let’s get out!

As a presidential candidate, Trump repeatedly criticized past administrations’ handling of the Afghanistan conflict, but said it would be a mistake for the U.S. to pull all troops out of the country.

“At this point, you probably have to stay because that thing will collapse about two seconds after they leave,” Trump said in a CNN interview in 2015.

Less than two weeks ago, addressing the possibility of sending additional troops to the country, Trump expressed confidence in the eventual outcome, though did not yet reveal his ultimate determination on what his administration will do there.

“It’s a very big decision for me,” he said on August 10. “I took over a mess, and we’re going to make it a lot less messy.”

So far this year, 11 U.S. service members have been killed in Afghanistan. More than 2,250 Americans have died in the country since 2001.

ABC News’ Luis Martinez and Elizabeth McLaughlin contributed to this report.


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Impact of Bannon-McMaster fight

The months-long debate that preceded Trump’s decision on the war’s fate frequently burst into public view, pitting two top White House advisers against each other: national security adviser H.R. McMaster and Steve Bannon, the President’s chief strategist who was pushed out on Friday, shortly before Trump huddled with his national security team at Camp David.
While McMaster has pushed more hawkish proposals, Bannon has led the internal pushback against those options, arguing that the US should not increase its military and financial commitments after 16 years of war in Afghanistan.
Bannon’s arguments in internal deliberations often echoed Trump’s rhetoric during the campaign, when he argued against US military interventionist policies and argued the US should instead focus its resources on domestic projects.
It was unclear how Bannon’s ouster affected the final round of deliberations.
But as Trump mulled a final decision on Friday, he relied on the counsel of several current and former military officers.
Beyond McMaster and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford, Trump also relied on a pair of retired Marine Corps four-star generals: Mattis along with his newly installed chief of staff John Kelly.
Kelly’s son, 1st Lt. Robert Kelly, a Marine, was killed in Afghanistan in 2010, making Kelly the highest-ranking military officer to suffer the loss of a child in combat.
Several of the President’s advisers on the Afghanistan war have children currently enlisted in the US military, including Kelly and Vice President Mike Pence.
Mattis told reporters on Sunday that Trump reconvened his national security team several times before arriving at a decision on Afghanistan because he “kept asking questions on all of them, and wanting more and more depth on it.”
“It caused us to integrate the answers more. In other words, the more pointed he became about what he would look at with that option versus this one, meant we could better define what are the relationships with allies or what are the level of effort needed and what’s the cost, the financial cost, and so we just kept sharpening those,” Mattis said.

CNN’s report:


Playing Chicken With China

August 21, 2017

Trump’s North Korea brinkmanship might seem scary, but it’s not that unusual.

Aug. 20, 2017 3:52 p.m. ET

President Trump appears desperate, erratic and even irrational as he struggles to stop North Korea from developing nuclear weapons capable of reaching the U.S. mainland. If the president is to be believed, he stands ready to run any risk, pay any price and do whatever necessary to keep the U.S. safe. This includes launching a pre-emptive attack that risks dragging America and China into a second Korean War. To understand the method in what looks like madness, recall the Cold War strategy known as “nuclear chicken.”

A game…

Donald Trump to Unveil Afghanistan Strategy in Televised Address Monday

August 21, 2017

President’s plan expected to include sending as many as 4,000 more troops

U.S. soldiers maneuvered a howitzer in June at Bost Airfield in Afghanistan.
U.S. soldiers maneuvered a howitzer in June at Bost Airfield in Afghanistan. PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS

President Donald Trump will give a nationally televised address Monday night to unveil his strategy for the long-running war in Afghanistan, the White House said, a plan expected to include sending as many as 4,000 more troops to the country.

He’ll deliver the prime-time speech from Fort Myer in Arlington, Va., using the same sort of high-profile stage that his predecessor, Barack Obama, employed in laying out a new approach to the war in 2009. Mr. Obama delivered his speech before a national television audience at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., promising at the time to “bring this war to a successful conclusion.”

The speech is planned for 9 p.m. EDT.

Last week, Mr. Trump met at Camp David with his top advisers, including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, national security adviser H.R. McMaster and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, to discuss the way ahead in Afghanistan. Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, attended by videoconferencing from overseas.

On Saturday, the president tweeted that he had settled on an approach to a war that is now in its 16th year: “Important day spent at Camp David with our very talented Generals and military leaders. Many decisions made, including on Afghanistan.”

The Afghanistan policy announcement marks a turning point for the president. In announcing the strategy himself, he gains ownership of the war that he criticized as a candidate before inheriting it from two predecessors, Mr. Obama and George W. Bush. As the new strategy takes hold, Mr. Trump will increasingly be asked about any successes or setbacks. Mr. Trump has been criticized in national security circles for foisting his war policy on his generals.

Months ago, Mr. Trump empowered Mr. Mattis to increase the size of the force as needed. The defense secretary, who led troops there as a general before his retirement, pushed to get the White House to agree to a strategy first. Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and others embracing an “America First” strategy had cautioned Mr. Trump that there was no payoff in Afghanistan and to pull troops out.

Mr. Trump as a candidate called for drawing down the number of troops, but top military advisers and ultimately Mr. Tillerson advised that he should not only retain but increase the troop levels to address a worsening security situation and to strengthen the advisory effort aiding the Afghan military. He was also advised to take a broader approach to the region that would include Pakistan.

Mr. Trump heads into this high-stakes period for his agenda at a time when his White House is in the midst of a reset. His new chief of staff, John Kelly, has been tightening operations in a West Wing that has failed to notch a major legislative victory.

Mr. Trump on Friday ousted Mr. Bannon, the face of an economic nationalist approach that had discomfited some of the president’s more mainstream advisers.

More staff departures could be coming as Mr. Kelly looks to impose more discipline on a staff riven by infighting, White House advisers said.

Write to Peter Nicholas at and Gordon Lubold at

Appeared in the August 21, 2017, print edition as ‘Trump Set to Detail His Afghan Strategy.’

Mattis: US reached decision on Afghan strategy after ‘rigorous’ debate — Stalemate after 16 years of U.S. troops in Afghanistan

August 20, 2017


© AFP | US Defense Secretary James Mattis speaks to reporters on board a flight to Jordan for the start of a regional tour on August 20, 2017

AMMAN (AFP) – US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis confirmed Sunday that the Trump administration had decided on a new strategy for Afghanistan after “rigorous” debate, but said President Donald Trump would be the one to announce it.Mattis refused to hint at any details of the decision, which came after months of speculation over whether Trump, frustrated with a stalemate after 16 years in Afghanistan, would allow the Pentagon to boost troop numbers on the ground in the country.

However Mattis appeared satisfied after what he described as an in-depth review of the policy by much of the president’s cabinet and top security officials at Camp David on Friday.

“I’m very comfortable that the strategic process was sufficiently rigorous, and did not go in with a preset condition in terms of what questions could be asked and what decisions could be made,” he said.

“Everyone who had equity was heard,” he said, including budget officials responsible for funding the effort.

Trump had several options on the table, that ranged from backing away from the country to stepping up US efforts to defeat the Taliban. In June he gave Mattis the power to increase troop numbers above the estimated 8,400 that have been in the country — close to 4,000 more, according to reports.

But Mattis said he was loathe to move before he had a true picture of the numbers, which he said were actually higher than 8,400, and before Trump had his say on the broader strategy.

“The president had to make strategic decisions,” Mattis said.

“He delegated to me, when he came in, the tactical and operational decision. He did not delegate one ounce of the strategic decision.”

“He really did come in with very different courses of action, and I think he now needs the weekend to collect his thoughts about how he’s going to explain it to the American people.”

Mattis arrived in Jordan Sunday on the first day of a five-day swing through the Middle East and Eastern Europe. In Jordan he will meet with King Abdullah on regional security matters.

In Turkey he will hold discussions with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and top military officials focused on the Syria conflict and the fight against the Islamic State group. In Ukraine he will discuss US support for the country’s military fighting pro-Moscow rebels and attend celebrations for the country’s national day.