Trump Must Raise His Bet In Afghanistan To 50,000 Troops, To Call Taliban Surge

[The executive decision to fight the terror war with private contractors, instead of using actual troops has artificially inflated the cost of the war, since mercenaries work for hundreds or thousands of dollars a day as opposed to normal troops. This economic incentive has served as a bleeding wound in staffing the military, since a large percentage of officers and tech specialists retire early to become contractors, to get inflated pay for the same work.
The decision to hide the actual casualty figures of the war from the public through privatization enables the govt to cite false statistics about dead and wounded “soldiers”, since no one tallies all of the mercenary casualty figures.]

Trump Has to Decide: 50,000 Troops to Afghanistan?


A new classified intelligence brief says the Ghani government can survive if the U.S. recommits.

Looks like they could use some help.   Photographer: AREF KARIMI/AFP/Getty Images

A new Afghanistan war strategy approved last month by President Donald Trump’s top military and national security advisers would require at least 50,000 U.S. forces to stop the advance of the Taliban and save the government in Kabul, according to a classified U.S. intelligence community assessment.

U.S. intelligence and national security officials familiar with the assessment tell me that it was drafted in April, and that it provided estimates of necessary troop strengths for various strategic options. But it found that if an ambitious war plan approved by the National Security Council’s principals committee got a green light from the president — a big if — more than 50,000 U.S. troops would be needed.

That proposed strategy, which I wrote about earlier this month, would place the U.S. on a new war footing and in a deeper partnership with the Afghan government in its current campaign against the Taliban. It would also remove arbitrary timelines for withdrawal set by President Barack Obama.

The new estimate from the intelligence community envisions significantly more U.S. forces in Afghanistan than the current levels of around 8,400 U.S. troops currently fighting there. It is also more than the modest troop increase for Afghanistan of around 5,000 that was reported last week.

One reason the new war strategy would require more troops is that it envisions using U.S. forces in a support role that until now has relied on outside contractors. Using contractors for functions like vehicle maintenance and other logistical aid have meant that U.S. forces deployed to Syria and Iraq have largely focused on war fighting and training locals. This has kept the total number of U.S. troops artificially low, while increasing the overall cost of the U.S. presence.

Spokesmen for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the National Security Council declined to comment for this column. But other U.S. officials familiar with the internal deliberations tell me Trump has signaled he is in no mood to escalate America’s longest war. Indeed, he has complained to close aides in the last month about how great powers throughout history — from Alexander’s Macedonians to the British Empire — have failed to pacify the country.

Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster takes a very different view. For the last five weeks he has lobbied the national security cabinet and the president with a slide presentation on Afghanistan that features photos from Kabul in the 1970s when it resembled a modern capital. That was before the Soviet coup of 1979, before the rise of the Mujahideen in the 1980s that drove the Soviets out, and before the rise of the Taliban in the 1990s and early 2000s that provided a safe haven to al Qaeda before the Sept. 11 attacks.

According to U.S. officials familiar with McMaster’s presentation, the message was simple: Afghanistan is not necessarily destined to be a safe haven for terrorists or a wasteland run by warlords. What’s more, McMaster has argued strongly that the counter-terrorism mission against the Taliban and other Islamic insurgents is contingent on the government of President Ashraf Ghani surviving.

On this last point, there are no guarantees. While the Taliban has not been able to control territory in major population centers, it has expanded its reach and influence since the end of U.S. combat operations in the country in 2015. One national security official described the current strategy inherited from Obama as “losing slowly.” This official said the Taliban will overrun the government eventually if more outside resources are not deployed.

Last week, Lieutenant General Vincent Stewart, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said the current war between Ghani’s government and the Taliban was a “stalemate.” He added: “That stalemate will deteriorate in the favor of the belligerents. So we have to do something very different than what we’ve been doing in the past.”

Jack Keane, a retired four-star Army general who is an ally of McMaster’s, told me that a strategy to support Ghani’s government is not only the best plan, but it also has a good chance of succeeding. “In survey after survey, for every year we have been doing this, the polling reflects overwhelmingly that 70 to 80 percent of the Afghan people reject the Taliban,” he said. “Supporting a government that is attempting to meet the needs of its people, despite their inefficiencies and despite the level of corruption that is there, still makes the most sense.”

In the abstract, Keane is right. And yet Trump has avoided making a commitment to heavy military involvement recommended by the NSC principals committee. Initially, McMaster had hoped to brief the president on a final strategy and get a decision in the first week of May. The hope was that the president would be able to present the plan at the NATO summit in Brussels on May 25, so the allies would be asked to contribute to a cohesive strategy. White House officials now tell me they don’t expect there will be time on the president’s schedule this week for Afghanistan.

Obviously Trump is a busy man. Between the president’s first foreign trip, the latest allegations that he inappropriately shared classified intelligence with Russia’s foreign minister and the aftermath of his chaotic firing of FBI director James Comey, the White House has to attend to many urgent matters. But with the spring fighting season getting into full swing in Afghanistan, the government in Kabul does not have the luxury of time.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

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Tobin Harshaw at

Trump’s Homeland Sec. Chief, Milwaukee Co. Sheriff, Who Wants To Send 1 Million Americans To Guantanamo Bay Prison

Donald Trump was scheduled to meet Monday with Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke Jr., a Trump supporter and surrogate during the campaign who is now reportedly being considered to head the Department of Homeland Security. Clarke is known for his extreme views on policing—including his conviction that there is a war on cops but no police brutality—and for his attacks on Black Lives Matter. One of his most out-there positions: suspend the constitutional rights of up to a million people, and hold them indefinitely at the US prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Clarke’s extremist approach to homeland security is no secret. In his upcoming memoir, Cop Under Fire: Moving Beyond Hashtags of Race, Crime and Politics for a Better America, he advocates treating American citizens suspected of terrorism as “enemy combatants,” questioning them without an attorney, and holding them indefinitely, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. Their cases would be handled by a military tribunal rather than a traditional court.

But a year ago, Clarke went further and called for rounding up Americans who sympathize with terrorists and shipping them to an offshore prison. During a December 2015 segment of his show, The People’s Sheriff, on Glenn Beck’s TheBlaze radio network, Clarke suggested that any person who posts pro-terrorist sentiments on social media be arrested, deprived of the constitutional protection against unlawful imprisonment (known as habeas corpus), and sent to Guantanamo Bay indefinitely. He estimated the number of people who could be imprisoned under his proposal could reach 1 million. Presumably, this would include American citizens. (The Democratic research group American Bridge caught Clarke proposing this idea.)

“I suggest that our commander in chief ought to utilize Article I, Section 9 and take all of these individuals that are suspected, these ones on the internet spewing jihadi rhetoric…to scoop them up, charge them with treason and, under habeas corpus, detain them indefinitely at Gitmo,” Clarke said.

Article 1, Section 9 of the Constitution allows the president to suspend the writ of habeas corpus only “when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it.” Clarke added that locking up suspected terrorists in American prisons and jails would turn those facilities into “terrorist recruitment camps.” That’s why these people would have to be packed off to Guantanamo.

“We have no idea how many people out there have pledged allegiance or are supporting ISIS, giving aid and comfort, but I would suggest hundreds of thousands, I would suggest maybe a million,” Clarke said. “It’s just a guess. And then you take the known terrorists that are here, and you think we’re going to arrest all these people and put them in jails and then sentence them to prison? It’s idiotic. [Take them to] Gitmo and hold them indefinitely under a suspension of habeas corpus. We’re at war. This is a time of war. Bold and aggressive action is needed.”

Clarke is prone to exaggerations and extreme talk. Last year, for example, he predicted on Twitter that “before long, Black Lies [sic] Matter will join forces with ISIS to being [sic] down our legal constituted republic. You heard it first here.”

It’s unclear what kind of comment or act would land an American citizen indefinitely in Guantanamo under Clarke’s plan. In the radio segment, he said he was not suggesting indefinite detention for “some innocuous statement, I’m not going to go that far.” He pointed to the woman out in San Bernardino” as an example, referring to the female shooter in the terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California, who pledged allegiance to ISIS on Facebook shortly before murdering 14 people. “That’s beyond the pale,” he said. But he also said anyone who has “pledged allegiance or are supporting ISIS, giving aid and comfort” would qualify. He did not say how tweets and Facebook posts would be policed or how 1 million people would be arrested and incarcerated in a prison that has up to now held fewer than 800 prisoners.

Listen to Clarke’s comments here:

Listen to the full episode here: