Trump at Pentagon to Review New Strategy for Afghanistan

President Donald Trump speaks to members of the National Security Council at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., July 20, 2017 (DOD/U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)
President Donald Trump speaks to members of the National Security Council at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., July 20, 2017 (DOD/U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

For the third time in his six months in office, President Donald Trump went to the Pentagon Thursday for briefings on Afghanistan and ISIS.

Also in the entourage that motorcaded to the Pentagon were Chief Strategist Steve Bannon and Senior Adviser Jared Kushner. They reportedly have asked Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to consider a plan pushed by Erik Prince, founder of the Blackwater International private security firm, to name an "American viceroy" for Afghanistan and use mercenaries against the Taliban.

Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford, Vice President Mike Pence, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also attended the meeting.

Trump was met on the steps of Pentagon by Mattis and briefly responded to a shouted question on whether he would back sending more U.S. troops to Afghanistan in addition to the 8,400 now on the ground under the command of Army Gen. John Nicholson, commander of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan and the NATO Resolute Support mission.

"We'll see," Trump said about Afghanistan. He added that "we're doing very well against ISIS. ISIS is falling fast, very fast."

Mattis has been developing a new strategy for the 16-year-old war in Afghanistan that was expected to meet Nicholson's long-standing request for 3,000-5,000 more U.S. troops. Mattis has also said he was focused on a more "regional" strategy that would involve better cooperation from Pakistan.

Mattis had promised to deliver the strategy by mid-July, and last week said that he would generally stick to that timeline but he gave no further guidance on when he would present the plan to Trump.

Trump's first visit to the Pentagon came in his first week in office in late January when he met with Mattis and the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the secure conference room called "The Tank." At the time, Trump was still calling Mattis by one of his nicknames -- "Mad Dog." Mattis has since let it be known that he prefers being called "Jim."

In February, Trump went to the Pentagon to sign an executive order restricting immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries. The signing was conducted in the Pentagon's Hall of Heroes, which is dedicated to the more than 3,460 recipients of the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest decoration for valor.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

Show Full Article