With the anti-neocon Steve Bannon out, and nobody left in Trump’s inner circle to halt the simmering push for war in Aghanistan, North Korea, the Middle East and virtually everywhere else courtesy of Generals Kelly and McMaster, this morning Reuters reported, quoting Defense Secretary Mattis that Trump has a made a decision on the United States’ strategy for Afghanistan after a “sufficiently rigorous” review process.
However, Mattis did not provide details on when the White House would make an announcement or what the decision was on Afghanistan, where fighting still rages more than 15 years after U.S. forces invaded and overthrew a Taliban government.
“I am very comfortable that the strategic process was sufficiently rigorous and did not go in with a pre-set position,” Mattis told reporters traveling with him aboard a military aircraft to Jordan. “The president has made a decision. As he said, he wants to be the one to announce it to the American people.”
As reported earlier in the year, soon after taking office in January the Trump administration began a review of U.S. policy on Afghanistan, which has expanded into a broader South Asia review. After Trump met with his national security aides on Friday to review an array of options for Afghan strategy, the White House said no decision had been made on whether he would commit more troops to America’s longest war. However, Trump tweeted on Saturday: “many decisions made, including on Afghanistan”.
U.S. officials have told Reuters that the president was expected to be briefed on options ranging from a complete withdrawal of U.S. troops in Afghanistan to a modest increase. Out bet is on the latter, and scrap the “modest” part: after all, if there was ever a time Trump need a “war diversion” it is now.
Luckily, we won’t have long to wait: according to a statement issued moments ago by the White House, “Trump will address our Nation’s troops and the American people tomorrow night at 9:00 pm (EDT) from Fort Meyer in Arlington, VA, to provide an update on the path forward for America’s engagement in Afghanistan and South Asia.”
Anyone harboring any hope that with two generals whispering strategy in Trump’s ear, and with anti-interventionist Bannon out of the picture, that Trump will announce an accelerated withdrawal of US troops from the war-battered country, should probably not hold their breath. Meanwhile, keep a close eye on Mattis, Kelly and McMaster: once Trump announces the inevitable boost in military activity in Afghanistan first (and soon, everywhere else), it will be the three generals who – together with Goldman Sachs when it comes to domestic policy – are now officially in control of the U.S. executive branch.