In a move signaling marked escalation of a war that has spanned nearly 16 years, a Trump administration official told the Associated Press on Thursday that an additional 4,000 troops will be sent to Afghanistan. An official announcement is expected to come next week.
"War fought without oversight is war without end."
—Dan Feehan, former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense
President Trump, as the New York Times reported earlier this week, has given Secretary of Defense James Mattis considerable authority to set troop levels in Afghanistan, but as the AP's Lolita Baldor and Robert Burns noted, "the responsibility for America's wars and the men and women who fight in them rests on his shoulders."
Trump has inherited America's longest conflict with no clear endpoint or a defined strategy for American success, though U.S. troop levels are far lower than they were under Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush. In 2009, Obama authorized a surge of 30,000 troops into Afghanistan, bringing the total there to more than 100,000, before drawing down over the rest of his presidency. Trump has barely spoken about Afghanistan as a candidate or president, concentrating instead on crushing the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.
Critics characterized the Trump administration's decision as just another advancement of "perpetual war" without public discussion or oversight.
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"War fought without oversight is war without end," wrote former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Dan Feehan. "Congress must reopen the debate on the [Authorization for Use of Military Force]."
In an interview on the Real News Network Thursday, Stephen Miles of Win Without War condemned the escalation and argued U.S. and other foreign powers should focus on a political solution in Afghanistan.