White House limiting number of troops to Afghanistan: report

White House limiting number of troops to Afghanistan: report
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The Trump administration has set a cap on the number of additional troops Defense Secretary James Mattis can send to Afghanistan without getting additional approval from the White House, The Wall Street Journal reported.

President Trump last month gave Mattis authority to set troop levels in Afghanistan, with 3,000 to 5,000 additional soldiers as the reported goal.

But days after Trump granted the authority, national security adviser H.R. McMaster penned a classified memo that limits forces to Afghanistan to no more than 3,900 troops. Mattis must confer with the White House before sending more beyond that number, people familiar with the document told the Journal.


The memo — sent to a small group of administration officials — came as a surprise to some. A few officials told the Journal they thought that the White House would impose no such restrictions. The White House National Security Council declined to comment to the paper.

Dana White, the Pentagon’s chief spokeswoman, told the Journal she couldn’t discuss details of any classified memos.

Defense officials said that though the memo constrains military decisionmaking, it’s not likely to tie up Pentagon planning.

The White House is struggling with how it will end the 16-year war in Afghanistan that has cost trillions of dollars, with Pentagon leaders calling for more troops to end what many consider a stalemate.

Mattis told lawmakers in June that the U.S. is “not winning” in Afghanistan but promised to “correct this as soon as possible and to brief Congress in detail on a new strategy for Afghanistan by mid-July."

But differing opinions on what U.S. goals should be in Afghanistan have emerged in the the White House.


White House senior strategist Stephen Bannon is reportedly skeptical of any additional resources and troops sent to the region, while Mattis, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joseph Dunford and Commander Joseph Votel of U.S. Central Command are all pushing for increased forces.

The U.S. already has roughly 8,400 troops in Afghanistan on a joint mission of advising and training Afghan forces and conducting anti-terror operations against groups such as al Qaeda and ISIS.

Trump, meanwhile, has long touted his stance that the White House shouldn’t micromanage the military and has frequently criticized his predecessor, President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaMillennial momentum means trouble for the GOP Biden's Cuba problem: Obama made a bet and lost Democrats need a coherent response to attacks on critical race theory MORE, for doing the opposite.

“What I do is I authorize my military,” Trump said April 13 following the use of the Pentagon’s largest non-nuclear bomb on a militant compound in Afghanistan.

“We have the greatest military in the world, and they’ve done the job as usual, so we have given them total authorization. And that’s what they’re doing. And frankly, that’s why they’ve been so successful lately.”