Relations between the White House and Pentagon are worsening as the Pentagon has denied a report that Secretary of Defense James Mattis authorized nearly 4,000 troops to Afghanistan, which was initially sourced to a Trump administration official.
A Trump administration official reportedly told the Associated Press Thursday that Mattis will decide early next week to send almost 4,000 troops to turn the tide in the Afghanistan war, but now the Pentagon is stringently denying that line from the White House, further intensifying icy relations.
“Secretary Mattis has made no decisions on a troop increase for Afghanistan. As he said throughout the week in testimony, the revised Afghanistan strategy will be presented to the President for his approval in the coming weeks,” chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana W. White said in a statement Friday.
“The president has delegated force management authority for Afghanistan to the secretary. The secretary will continue to follow the president’s guidance on our overall strategy. Any decisions about troop numbers will be made only after consultation with the interagency, the Afghan government, NATO allies and coalition partners.”
While Mattis has acknowledged that the U.S. is not winning the war in Afghanistan right now, given that the number of districts controlled by the Afghan government has shrunk since early 2016, correction of this problem will seemingly take several weeks as the Pentagon draws up plans. In other words, the decision to send nearly 4,000 troops to Afghanistan early next week will likely not take place, and it’s unclear whether Mattis will even adhere to that number if he decides to send troops int he coming weeks.
Mattis has made a point of keeping his distance from the White House in an effort to keep the military as politically neutral as possible, spurning requests from Trump administration aides to appear on shows like “Fox & Friends.” According to a report from The New York Times, Mattis has tried hard to distance himself from divisive political issues, notably President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement. Cabinet officials applauded Trump’s move, but not Mattis.
Rather, Mattis prefers to exert influence through one-on-one meetings with Trump.
Earlier in the year, Mattis also reportedly clashed with the White House over Pentagon nominees, turning down many choices from the Trump administration, while choosing outsiders who have since withdrawn from the process.
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