The Pentagon will deploy 4,000 additional troops to Afghanistan to finally break the stalemate with the Taliban. This will be the President Donald Trump’s first major decision regarding the war which is now in its 16th year.
The announcement wasn’t made during a televised address, a press briefing, or a speech at West Point. Instead, the news came from the Department of Defense Thursday afternoon. According to the report, the president has given Defense Secretary James Mattis the authority to send more troops to stabilize the country.
According to NBC, the war has engulfed the terms of three presidents and currently engages about 8,500 Americans. Starting with the term of President Barack Obama, the U.S. has decreased their involvement letting Afghan government forces to do most of the fighting.
While American presence in the region has been in decline, it is still an invaluable base of operations in the War on Terror. Among these operations was the mission to kill Osama Bin Laden where the country served as a staging point for the SEALs who carried out the raid.
Now with Trump in charge, the passive approach taken by the U.S. will likely change. During the campaign, then-candidate Trump outlined his plans to combat terrorism on multiple occasions. During his first months in office, he also appointed several former military commanders to key cabinet positions.
But while the president is known for his fiery tweets online, he was less forthcoming with his policies. The same goes his strategy because while the troops are to be deployed in Afghanistan, how they will be utilized is still shrouded in mystery.
Even the Pentagon’s news release is vaguely worded, referring only to setting “troop levels” as a stopgap measure. According to the New York Times, this lack of clarity highlights the conflicts within the administration with regards to dealing with the war.
With a president who ran for office seemingly without qualms for sending troops in war zones despite public opposition, fears of escalating involvement are well-founded. However, by deploying troops before outlining a strategy the Trump administration could just be buying time to properly discuss the best way to handle the deteriorating situation.
But former military commanders and military scholars caution that by putting in troops beforehand, the president has abdicated his responsibility to protect troops. Delegating his duty to Sec. Mattis means that he is essentially giving up civilian control of the military, something that has been a tradition for so long as well as a measure to limit its powers.
The deployment serves as a victory for the Secretary of Defense and national security adviser Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster over Trump’s aides. Among them is his chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon, who like many others are opposed to sending more troops.
For Trump, who has run on borderline-isolationist platforms, sending more troops essentially reneges on its election promises. Many supporters have expressed their disappointment with the decision. The same reaction was garnered when he ordered a bombardment of a Syrian airbase claimed to be the staging point of a gas attack that occurred months earlier.
However, the recent truck bomb that killed over 150 people in Kabul and fears that Pakistan might be in danger of collapse shook the administration. With escalating violence in one country and a nuclear-capable nation in danger of collapsing, necessary measures need to be taken.
Mattis and McMaster, both experienced military commanders argued fervently with the president to expand military effort without further delay. However, White House officials insist they are still discussing the role of the United States in the region.
Nevertheless, the decision to deploy more troops is already in motion. The Pentagon says it will send between 3,000-5,000 troops to help stabilize the situation.
Back in February of 2012, Trump wrote that the U.S. needs to get out of Afghanistan. He says that it is not in our national interest to build schools and roads for people who hate us.
Whether or not his decision is a matter of national interest, the fact remains that American men and women will once again be in harm’s way. Hopefully, whatever Mr. Mattis’ and Gen. McMaster’s are it doesn’t become reality.
[Featured Image by Sgt. Lucas Hopkins/AP Images]