Trump Says U.S.‘Losing’ Afghan War in Tense Meeting With Generals

Trump Says U.S.‘Losing’ Afghan War in Tense Meeting With Generals, by Carol Lee.

President Donald Trump has become increasingly frustrated with his advisers tasked with crafting a new U.S. strategy in Afghanistan and recently suggested firing the war’s top military commander during a tense meeting at the White House, according to senior administration officials. …

Over nearly two hours in the situation room, according to the officials, Trump complained about NATO allies, inquired about the United States getting a piece of Afghan’s mineral wealth and repeatedly said the top U.S. general there should be fired. …

On Wednesday, two American troops were killed in Afghanistan when a convoy they were in came under attack. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

Trump’s national security team has been trying for months to come up with a new strategy he can approve. …

Former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush went through multiple strategies over the course of their presidencies to try to stabilize Afghanistan. What set Trump apart in the July meeting was his open questioning of the quality of the advice he was receiving. …

“We aren’t winning,” Trump complained, according to these officials. “We are losing.”

One official said Trump pointed to maps showing the Taliban gaining ground, and that Mattis responded to the president by saying the U.S. is losing because it doesn’t have the strategy it needs. …

Trump vented to his national security team that the veterans told him forces from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization have not been helpful, and he lamented that China is making money off of Afghanistan’s estimated $1 trillion in rare minerals while American troops are fighting the war, officials said. Trump expressed frustration that his advisers tasked with figuring out how the U.S. can help American businesses get rights to those minerals were moving too slowly, one official said.

China purchased mineral rights in Afghanistan a decade ago, an investment the U.S. supported at the time. Beijing has since had teams mining copper outside of Kabul.

The focus on the minerals was reminiscent of Trump’s comments early into his presidency when he lamented that the U.S. didn’t take Iraq’s oil when the majority of forces departed the country in 2011. …

He also said the tendency is to assume if someone isn’t a three-star general he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, and that in his own experience in business talking to low-ranking workers has gotten him better outcomes. …

“The clear message if you heard the story was: high-priced consultants or high-priced anybody, expensive supposedly-big-brained people, but who are physically far from the source of the problem, often give you much worse advice than the supposedly low-ranking guys who are right there,” the official said. …

Retired four-star Gen. Barry McCaffrey advised against shaping a strategy around advice from troops serving on the ground.

“One of the last things you necessarily want to do is form policy advice based on what the current combatants think about something in a war zone,” said Gen. McCaffrey, an MSNBC military analyst. “They’re qualified totally to talk about tactics and things like that and what they’re seeing, but the president’s job is to formulate strategy and policy not to do tactical decisions.”

He also said acquiring mineral rights in Afghanistan is complicated and potentially costly because it would require the type of security the U.S. has been unable to achieve, as well as a workforce and access to a port to ship the materials. …

Nicholson has called the war a “stalemate” and said he needs a “few thousand” additional troops. “Offensive capability is what will break the stalemate in Afghanistan,” he said in February during testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee. …

Heading into its 16th year, the war in Afghanistan is the longest war in U.S. history. …

The U.S. currently has about 8,400 troops in Afghanistan. Some of Trump’s advisers are advocating for a very limited U.S. role in the war, while others have recommended several thousand additional troops. Officials said it’s unclear when the president will sign off on a new strategy.