Like Obama, Trump Is Caught In Dilemma Over Troop Surge

In Military and War On
- Updated

The dispute pits two generals who had formative experiences in Afghanistan — Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and the national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster — against political aides, led by the chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, who fear that sending in more troops would be a slippery slope toward nation-building.

“They are going to be faced with the same questions we were,” said David Axelrod, a former senior Obama adviser, who worried, during the 2009 debate, that the generals were boxing his boss in. “How and when does this end? Or is it an open-ended commitment of American lives and resources? What will the investment produce in the long run?

The White House shelved the deliberations over Afghanistan three weeks ago, after an initial Pentagon proposal to deploy up to 5,000 additional American troops ran into fierce resistance from Mr. Bannon, an ardent nationalist, and other political advisers. In the West Wing, some aides have taken to calling Afghanistan “McMaster’s war.”

Undeterred, General McMaster plans to bring the debate back to the front burner this coming week, a senior administration official said. But as he does so, the Pentagon appears to be moving toward a smaller recommendation, in which America’s allies would supply half the new troops. Historically, the United States has supplied about two-thirds of the soldiers in Afghanistan.

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