US President Donald Trump disembarks from Air Force One upon arrival at Hagerstown Regional Airport in Maryland on August 18, 2017, as he travels for meetings at Camp David before returning to Bedminster, New Jersey to continue his vacation. (Photo by AFP)
TEHRAN, Young Journalists Club (YJC) - US President Donald Trump has hinted that his administration has come to a decision on a course of action regarding the country’s 17-year old war in Afghanistan, but offered no details following a meeting with his top national security advisers at the Camp David presidential retreat near Washington.
“Important day spent at Camp David with our very talented Generals and military leaders. Many decisions made, including on Afghanistan,” Trump said on Twitter Saturday after meeting with more than a dozen aides, including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, to discuss his administration's strategy in the increasingly restive region, including Pakistan and India.
The White House said in a Friday statement that Trump "was briefed extensively by his national security team on a new strategy to protect America's interests in South Asia."
It further added, "The President is studying and considering his options and will make an announcement to the American people, to our allies and partners, and to the world at the appropriate time."
Mattis was tasked by an executive order issued by Trump back in February to devise an Afghan strategy that was expected to be delivered in mid-July, but the timeline has reportedly been thrown off by the president’s demand for revisions.
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis (Photo by AFP)
"I want to find out why we've been there for 17 years," Trump insisted at the White House on July 18 referring to Afghanistan.
While the Pentagon chief confirmed last week that US military options in Afghanistan ranged from a full withdrawal of forces to a troop surge of several thousands, he is reportedly also considering a plan offered by founder of the notorious Blackwater security firm, Erik Prince, to create an "American viceroy" for Afghanistan and to privatize much of the war effort through the use of armed mercenaries.
The Prince plan was presented to Mattis last month by chief White House strategist Steven Bannon, who was sacked Friday by Trump.
Mattis told reporters on Thursday that "we will move this toward a decision" on Afghanistan at Camp David , adding, "We are coming very close to a decision and I anticipate it in the very near future."
According to US press reports, the US defense chief had been leaning toward the request made in February by commander of US and allied NATO forces in Afghanistan, Army Gen. John Nicholson, for an additional 3,000-5,000 troops to bolster the 8,400 already on the ground in the so-called “counter-terrorism operations and the train, advise and assist role with Afghan security forces.”
US soldiers keep watch near the wreckage of their vehicle at the site of a Taliban bombing attack in Kandahar on August 2, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Mattis further emphasized that he was looking to expand the use of air power and focus on a more regional approach to counter Taliban militants through more cooperation with Pakistan.
Other top US officials attending the Camp David meeting included White House National Security Adviser McMaster, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford, Vice President Mike Pence, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, and United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley.
Also attending were retired Marine general and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Air Force Gen. Paul Selva.
The development came as the Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. John McCain stated in frustration last week that he was preparing his own Afghan strategy for presentation to the US Congress in the absence of an administration plan.
McCain further charged that the US was "adrift in Afghanistan,” adding that “we are losing in Afghanistan, and time is of the essence if we intend to turn the tide."