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August 4, 2017

Under President Trump, a new strategy for the Afghanistan war sparks debate


  • The U.S. war in Afghanistan has progressed for 16 years, and a new strategy for how to proceed has caused debate among Trump and his national security team. Progress has been slow and the president has reportedly been frustrated with his advisers.
  • Trump suggested that Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine General Joe Dunford fire the top commander in Afghanistan, Army General John Nicholson, according to NBC News.
    • Nicholson assumed command more than a year ago. The Pentagon was reportedly considering extending his term. General H.R. McMaster, the national security adviser, dismissed the charge in an interview with MSNBC host Hugh Hewitt.
  • The president’s own position on Afghanistan has been unclear. In June, he authorized Mattis and the Pentagon to dictate troop levels in Afghanistan. But so far, there’s been no formal announcement about adding troops. Adding to the uncertainty, The Wall Street Journal reports the administration is now also exploring the possibility of withdrawing forces.
  • Retired Army General Jack Keane said that at the moment, the Trump administration’s strategy in Afghanistan is maintaining the status quo. 
    • Keane defined one of the United States’ goals in Afghanistan going forward as follows: “We need to assist the government of Afghanistan in providing more effectiveness, the rule of law, and also assisting it with the incredible mineral capacity that they have. And, finally, we want to seek a political reconciliation to the war.”

  1. Essential question: How active a role should the United States play in Afghanistan?
  2. Why is the stabilization of the Afghan government important to peace in the region? What spillover effects, if any, could peace in Afghanistan entail?
  3. Do you think that the long-term presence in Afghanistan is beneficial or detrimental to the region and to the United States? Explain your answer.
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