Analysis: Pentagon continues to underestimate al Qaeda, downplay ties to Taliban

Screenshot from video produced by the Taliban in Dec. 2016 that emphasized the ties between al Qaeda and the Taliban. Al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden and Taliban founder Mulla Omar (center, top) are shown side by side in an image that promotes the martyrs of jihad.

Long War Journal, by Bill Roggio, July 5, 2018:

The US Department of Defense continues to ignore fundamental facts in spinning its latest narrative. Yet again, the Pentagon underestimates al Qaeda’s strength in Afghanistan while downplaying the group’s ties to the Taliban. The Pentagon claimed that al Qaeda’s “core members are focused on their own survival” and “there is no evidence of strategic ties” between al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Except, the Pentagon and the US intelligence community has consistently been wrong about al Qaeda’s strength in Afghanistan, and evidence of strategic ties between the two groups does indeed exist.

The Pentagon made these latest claims in the “Threats from Insurgent and Terrorist Groups” section (pages 25 & 26) of its most recent biannual report, Enhancing Security and Stability in Afghanistan. The report was released earlier this week. The paragraph discussing al Qaeda and the Taliban is excerpted in full below [emphasis added]:

The al-Qa’ida threat to the United States and its allies and partners has decreased, and the few remaining al-Qa’ida core members are focused on their own survival. The remnants of the organization likely reside along the southeast Afghanistan border with Pakistan with a smaller element in isolated areas of northeast Afghanistan. Some lower- and mid-level Taliban leaders provide limited support to al-Qa’ida; however, there is no evidence of strategic ties between the two organizations and the Taliban likely seeks to maintain distance from al-Qa’ida. In addition, al-Qa’ida’s regional affiliate, AQIS, has a presence in south and southeast Afghanistan, and in Pakistan, and is composed primarily of militants from within the broader South Asia region.

Underestimating al Qaeda, yet again

The Pentagon report employed language that was used consistently during the Obama administration that downplayed al Qaeda’s strength. Phrases such as “few remaining” (General Joseph Dunford, 2013), “remnants” (President Barack Obama, 2014), and “focused on their own survival” (General John Campbell, 2015), were uttered by the President and his top commanders for Afghanistan numerous times.

Beginning in 2010, CIA Director Leon Panetta claimed that al Qaeda had only “50 to 100, maybe less”leaders and operatives based in Afghanistan. FDD’s Long War Journal repeatedly refuted this estimate and even used the US military’s own press releases on raids against al Qaeda in Afghanistan to rebut the claims. Panetta’s estimate was repeated numerous times by intelligence and military officials, unchanged, for nearly six years. Additionally, the US military claimed that al Qaeda was confined to the northeastern provinces of Kunar and Nuristan.

This incorrect assessment of al Qaeda’s was proven wildly inaccurate when in Oct. 2015 US forces killed more than 150 al Qaeda operatives in an attack on two al Qaeda training camps in the Shorabak district in the southern province of Kandahar. After the raid on the al Qaeda camps, US military spokesman Brigadier General Wilson Shoffner described the raid as “one of the largest joint ground-assault operations we have ever conducted in Afghanistan.” It took US and Afghan forces more than four days to clear the two camps, with the aid of 63 airstrikes. Shoffner’s description of the al-Qaeda facilities indicated that they had been built long ago.

“The first site, a well-established training camp, spanned approximately one square mile. The second site covered nearly 30 square miles,” Shoffner said. “We struck a major al-Qaeda sanctuary in the center of the Taliban’s historic heartland,” he added.

After the Shorabak raid, the US military was ultimately forced to concede its estimate of al Qaeda’s strength in Afghanistan was wrong. In April 2016, Major General Jeff Buchanan, Resolute Support’s deputy chief of staff, told CNN that the 50 to 100 estimate was incorrect based on the results of the Shorabak raid.

“If you go back to last year, there were a lot of intel estimates that said within Afghanistan al-Qaeda probably has 50 to 100 members, but in this one camp we found more than 150,” he said.

The estimate of al-Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan was revised upwards to about 300.

Yet, in mid-December 2016, General John Nicholson admitted that the US military killed or captured 50 al-Qaeda leaders and an additional 200 operatives during calendar year 2016 in Afghanistan. And in Sept. of 2016, Nicholson said that US forces were hunting al Qaeda in seven of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces.

The US continues to hunt al Qaeda leaders to this day. Most recently, in late April the US announced that it killed a dual-hatted al Qaeda and Taliban leader in an airstrike in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar. The jihadist was described as “a senior AQIS [al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent] and Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) commander” who “controlled fighting forces in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.”

Additionally, al Qaeda’s leaders do not appear to be “focused on their own survival.” Al Qaeda’s propaganda arm, As Sahab, has increased its production of videos and other materials since mid-2015. Al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri and his heir apparent, Hamza bin Laden, have released numerous statements during this timeframe, while al Qaeda central has dispatched leaders to direct the fight in other theaters, such as Syria. These are not the actions of a group that is focused on survival.

Clearly, the US intelligence community and the military has consistently underestimated al Qaeda and its strength in Afghanistan, and continues to do so to this day.

“Strategic” al Qaeda and Taliban ties

The Pentagon report also stated that “there is no evidence of strategic ties between the two organizations and the Taliban likely seeks to maintain distance from al-Qa’ida].” The groups have long been tied and there is indeed evidence to prove it.

In December of 2016, the Taliban issued a video that emphasized its continuing alliance with al Qaeda. The video, entitled “Bond of Nation with the Mujahideen,” is replete with imagery and speeches that promote the enduring Taliban-al Qaeda relationship. In one section which promoted the martyrs of the Afghan jihad, al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden and Taliban founder Mulla Omar (see image above) were shown side by side. Also shown is Nasir al Wuhayshi, Osama bin Laden’s aide de camp who was promoted to lead al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Wuhayshi was killed in a US drone strike in Yemen, not in Afghanistan.

“Bond of Nation with the Mujahideen” also included clips of a speech by Sheikh Khalid Batarfi, a senior official in Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. LWJ believes he is likely part of al Qaeda’s global management team. Batarfi praised the Afghan jihad and stressed that the ties between al Qaeda and the Taliban remain strong.

The video is clear evidence that the Taliban, as recently as Dec. 2016, did not seek to “maintain distance from al-Qa’ida,” as the Pentagon claims.

Al Qaeda leaders’ oaths to the Amir-ul-Mumineen [“Emir of the Faithful”], or the head of the Afghan Taliban, is solid evidence of continuing ties between the two groups. Osama bin Laden’s pledge to Mullah Omar was maintained up until the US killed Osama in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in May 2011. Both the Taliban and al Qaeda have noted multiple times that the oath endured the Taliban’s loss of control of Afghanistan after the US invasion in 2001.

Zawahiri swore allegiance to Omar after Osama was killed, and again swore an oath to Mullah Mansourafter the Taliban announced Omar’s death in 2015. Mansour publicly accepted Zawahiri’s pledge in an official statement released on Voice of Jihad. After the US killed Mansour in May 2016, Zawahiri again issued a public pledge to his successor, Mullah Haibatullah, who is the Taliban’s current emir. While Haibatullah did not publicly accept Zawahiri’s oath, he also did not reject it. Haibatullah is considered to be far more radical than his predecessor, and he served as the Taliban’s chief judge for Mansour, so he would have given approval for Mansour’s acceptance of Zawahiri’s oath.

Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, al Qaeda’s branch in south and central Asia, also has publicly declared its allegiance to the Taliban.

Another key indicator that the Taliban’s relationship with al Qaeda remains strong to this day is the ascendance of Sirajuddin Haqqani to serve as one of the top two deputies to the Taliban’s emir as well as its commander of military operations. Sirajuddin is closely allied to al Qaeda. The Pentagon, in a previous section of the Enhancing Security and Stability in Afghanistan report, noted that “Sirajuddin Haqqani’s role as a Taliban deputy probably increased Haqqani influence within the Taliban leadership.”

The Haqqani Network, which is a powerful and influential faction of the Taliban, is known to have very close ties to al Qaeda, and maintains these ties to this day. Numerous designations of Haqqani Network commanders detail the close ties to al Qaeda. (Designations of other Taliban leaders not part of the Haqqani Network also detail close ties to al Qaeda.) The US, in its covert drone campaign in Pakistan, has killed multiple al Qaeda leaders who were sheltering in areas controlled by the Haqqanis.

The Pentagon cannot explain how the Taliban seeks to distance itself from al Qaeda while promoting Sirajuddin to the top echelon of its leadership cadre.

The US military has demonstrated time and time again that is unable to properly assess al Qaeda’s strength in Afghanistan as well as its close and enduring ties to the Taliban.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.

UTT Throwback Thursday: US Already Apologizing to the Enemy in Afghanistan – Again

Understanding the Threat, by John Guandolo, Sept. 7, 2017:

At what point do American citizens call for our military generals to be tried for criminal negligence as well as Aiding and Abetting the enemy for continuing their grossly unprofessional conduct and failure to make the slightest effort to understand the enemy 16 years after 9/11?

In February 2012, General John Allen apologized to muslims because allied forces “improperly disposed of Qurans.”

This week U.S. Major General James Linder apologized to muslims in Afghanistan for offending them by dropping leaflets containing the image of a dog with the Islamic shahada on it – “there is no god but allah and Mohammad is his messenger.”

Americans have just redeployed to Afghanistan and the United States is already apologizing to Islamic leaders.

Why don’t U.S. leaders man-up and  begin speaking to the Islamic world in language they understand?

How about our leaders tell the Islamic world to end the global jihad or we will obliterate it.

How about our leaders tell Saudi Arabia, Iran, Qatar, and all the other Islamic countries funding the global jihad that if they do not turn the money spigot off immediately, the U.S. will turn their countries into parking lots – and keep their money.

How about our leaders shut down every Islamic school, mosque and organization that teaches jihad, seize the property, and arrest their leaders.

What if, and this is a big IF, U.S. generals actually read sharia and come to understand the enemy so they will realize that apologies from them endanger U.S. troops and emboldens the enemy.

The United States is again surrendering to an enemy we should be decimating.

Suicide attack strikes largest US Base in Afghanistan

Bagram Air Base (

Raw Story, by Tom O’Connor, Sept. 6, 2017:

Posted with permission from Newsweek

A suicide bombing struck the U.S.’s largest military base in Afghanistan Wednesday, hours after an Army general apologized for dropping leaflets found offensive by many in the Muslim country.

An explosion rocked the entrance to Bagram Air Base, located near Kabul, causing a number of casualties. The attack, which has been claimed by the Taliban Islamist militant group, comes hours after Major General James Linder apologized for spreading images of a dog, which is considered an unclean animal in Islam, holding a Taliban flag, which bears the words “There is no God but God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God.” The phrase is an Islamic expression of faith known as the shahada and stems from the Quran.

“An explosion occurred outside an entry control point at Bagram Airfield at 5:38 p.m. local time today,” a statement said, according to Reuters.

“The explosion resulted in a small number of casualties,” it said, adding that the airfield was secure and the incident was being investigated.

The Taliban said the attack was intended to “avenge” the leaflets, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The latest assault comes weeks after President Donald Trump announced a new strategy to the U.S.’s longest-ever conflict, which began after the U.S. invaded in 2001 to overthrow the Al-Qaeda-allied Taliban after the 9/11 attacks. Nearly 16 years later, different U.S. administrations have struggled to stem ongoing insurgencies by the Taliban and, more recently, the Islamic State militant group (ISIS), as well.

Trump has pledged more troops, but said he would no longer reveal soldier counts or other details of operations in order to avoid information falling into enemy hands. Trump said “nation-building” would no longer be a priority and that Washington would focus on “killing terrorists.”

The Pentagon revealed last week that there were 11,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, about 2,600 higher than previously reported. The true number of U.S. soldiers stationed in Iraq and Syria is believed to be higher than the official figures as well, but the Pentagon refused to disclose these counts.

This is a developing story. More information will be added when it becomes available.

This ‘offensive’ leaflet made the Pentagon apologize to Muslims

Keith Binns | Getty Images

Conservative Review, by Jordan Schachtel, Sept. 6, 2017:

Here’s the leaflet that the Pentagon deemed so offensive to Muslims that it warranted an official apology from a U.S. commander, according to journalists who posted the leaflet on social media.

Above the photo of the lion chasing the dog, the leaflet said in Pashto, according to Reuters:

“Take back your freedom from the terrorist dogs and cooperate with coalition forces so they can target your enemy and eliminate them.”

The leaflet was air-dropped over Parwan Province, Afghanistan, Monday night. The airdrop was commenced as part of a psychological warfare campaign encouraging locals to join with coalition forces in their fight against the Taliban. Bagram Air Base, reportedly the largest U.S. military base in Afghanistan, is located in Parwan Province.

The controversy over the leaflet is centered around the dog in the image, which is sporting the Taliban flag. The same slogan used by the Taliban is also on the jihadi flags of extremist groups like the Islamic State, al-Qaida, al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, and Hamas.

But Afghan locals have apparently become enraged by the leaflet, because the verse inscribed on the dog (although widely understood in modern times as a jihadi slogan) is also a popular Quranic verse expressing commitment to Islam. The Shahada expresses a belief in God and Islam’s Muhammad as God’s prophet, or messenger.

Moreover, a dog is considered unclean by some sects of Islam, so having Islamic texts on a dog may cause offense to some Muslims, even if that dog is sporting a slogan that is used by the Taliban to commit jihad against innocents.

“The design of the leaflets mistakenly contained an image highly offensive to both Muslims and the religion of Islam,” Major General James Linder said in a statement late Tuesday. “I sincerely apologise. We have the deepest respect for Islam and our Muslim partners worldwide,” he added, pledging “to determine the cause of this incident and to hold the responsible party accountable.”

Upset Afghans plan on protesting the “unforgivable” offense the leaflet apparently caused to Muslims.

“Those who have committed this unforgivable mistake in the publicity, propaganda or media section of the coalition forces will be tried and punished,” said Parwan Province Governor Mohammad Hasem.

Ghulam Bahauddin Jilani, a provincial council head, also called for “whoever is responsible” to be “arrested and put on trial.”

The situation has “sparked riots” across the country, CBS News reports. Calls for legal repercussions for seemingly harmless activity is commonplace in much of the Islamic world, where the punishment for offending Islam is sometimes death or a severe beating.

The controversy is erupting two weeks after President Trump committed to continuing the war effort in Afghanistan for an indefinite amount of time.

Trump’s Afghanistan speech does not match reality. Here’s why

michaelbwatkins | Getty Images

Conservative Review, by Daniel Horowitz, Aug. 28, 2017:

There’s a growing trend in this administration in which the president tweets or gives voice to a set of policy guidelines, but the policy outcome from his administration is the exact opposite. This is because the president surrounds himself with political and military leaders who share the swampiest of swamp mentality — the very crowd he campaigned against last year and inveighs against to this very day. This is quite evident as it relates to Afghanistan, especially with all the conservatives fired from the West Wing.

As I noted last week, I agree with the broad rhetoric in Trump’s Afghanistan speech. We should focus only on our interests, transform from counter-insurgency to counter-terrorism, and use soft power to cut off funding and support for terror from Pakistan and other countries rather than trying to own the insufferable political problems of the country. But the policy he actually signed off on, both because of the reality in Afghanistan and the mindset of those championing and implementing it, is precisely the opposite of what he discussed: It’s an open-ended nation-building exercise in social work, endangering our troops in the worst form of combat, which we won’t control but the capricious Afghan government will.

The strategy in Afghanistan doesn’t add up

On the one hand, in order to buy support for indefinite continuation of the status quo, proponents of the plan dramatically downplay the American investment and risk in Afghanistan. They say we are only sending a few thousand soldiers, they are only there to advise, train, and mentor, and that the Afghanis will take control of their own destiny. Luke Coffey of the Heritage Foundation expressed as much in a column we published and noted that this is not like the combat operations in the Obama-era surges because “today the Afghans are in the lead.”

This is a scenario that doesn’t exist. It is a hypothetical situation in which we defeated the Taliban, we have a stable and trustworthy Afghan government that controls most of the country, and we just need a few thousand troops and a few more years to train up the Afghan security forces so they can retain the gains and we don’t risk throwing 16 years of investment and lives down the drain.

The truth, however, cannot be farther from that scenario, and everyone has admitted it.

Everyone agrees the Taliban control more ground than at any point since 9/11, with the ability to strike anywhere, including well outside the Pashtun areas. Everyone agrees that the Afghan army and government are as corrupt, divided, and infiltrated as ever before. Thus the risk of green-on-blue attacks (attacks on coalition forces by Afghan forces), which decimated our forces during the 2011 surge, is just as potent today. Just in June alone, 11 soldiers were killed or wounded by green-on-blue attacks.

Thus, Afghanistan is worse than ever before. And this is precisely why many feel an urgency to do something in the first place. After all, on June 13, Secretary Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee that “we are not winning in Afghanistan” and warned that “right now … the enemy is surging,” and there is a “need for urgency.”

With this in mind, how can it be that a few thousand “advisors” and “mentors” will change a calculus that 150,000 coalition forces under the same General Mattis, as CENTCOM commander in 2011, couldn’t break through?

Who are we kidding? By default, this will be a continued massive nation-building mission, but one with no understanding of what the Afghan government can do or how they will do it. As Captain Jarrin Jackson, a company commander during the Obama-era surge, told us during a podcast, training Afghan security forces is the most dangerous job imaginable and is nothing but nation-building at every stage. Nothing has changed since then. The Afghan army needs American soldiers to procure basic supplies for it. The Afghans are just as compromised as ever before. Our soldiers are engaged in the most dangerous combat — counterinsurgency patrolling in villages where they are ambushed, often by the very forces they are “mentoring.”

This is why those who are closely involved in the McMaster axis in Washington are so giddy about the announcement. Max Boot, who clearly is in the know about what is actually being implemented, was honest about it. “Back to Nation Building in Afghanistan. Good!” was the title of his New York Times op-ed. John McCain and Lindsey Graham are ecstatic.

Again, if this was a plan involving a mere few thousand soldiers just engaging in counter-terrorism from outside the danger zone and not trying to hold together ground for counterinsurgency, why is the establishment foreign policy crowd so happy? Moreover, by definition, working with Afghans and having them lead the way is the opposite of counterterrorism; its counterinsurgency.

And as I mentioned before, it’s the worse form of combat. Our guys are stuck in the most vulnerable situations attempting to hold unholdable ground with soldiers who can shoot them, compromise their mission, or lead them into an ambush at any moment. And the much-vaunted government we are working with is currently negotiating with and infiltrated by the Taliban.

The problem in 2011 was that the Afghan government knew every operation ahead of time and somehow that information often got out to the enemy. This is likely how we suffered the worst tragedy in modern naval special warfare when we lost 25 special ops personnel, primarily members of Seal Team 6, just a few months after that team killed Bin Laden. A helicopter full of troops, in what later became known as “Extortion 17,” was shot out of the sky by an ambush, in which the enemy clearly knew our location. A similar insider attack occurred when a corrupt Afghani colonel lead an attack at a Kabul airport, which killed 8 U.S. airmen, the greatest loss of life for the air force since 2001.

The generals are the problem, not the solution

The same generals who failed us in Afghanistan for a generation, the same generals who are more political and politically correct than politicians, the same generals who covered up Extortion 17, are now the foxes guarding the henhouse. Mattis was commander of CENTCOM during the failed surge. Votel and Nicholson are part of the same crowd of generals Trump was expected to fire. At some point, we can’t blame everything on Obama when these people went along with it.

Remember, these are the same generals who went along with Obama’s social engineering, not only with women in all areas of infantry but with the transgender agenda. Now they are pushing back against Trump when he wants to end this nonsense. Some of you might feel uncomfortable criticizing generals on military strategy or harboring a thought that they don’t understand or care about our strategic interests or the lives of their troops. But their enthusiastic support, and even insistence on social engineering should put to rest any notion that these people are any different from left-wing politicians in Washington. This is a sad epidemic that has hurt our military leadership over the past generation. It is the reason many of us know flag officers who have left the service because they were so disgusted with the political correctness, social engineering, lack of strategic thinking, and even lack of basic understanding of the threats we face.

After all, McMaster refuses to even recognize the problems of Islamic supremacism, and Mattis thinks Israel is an apartheid state. How in the world could we go to battle or even identify an enemy with such a mindset? How can pro-transgender and pro-Muslim Brotherhood generals lead us to victory or even identify what victory looks like or what engagement serves our national interests?

Trump himself recognized this problem during the campaign. One of the boldest statements from Trump during the campaign, one which endeared him to many voters, was when he finally spoke the truth about the politicized generals. Trump declared at the Commander-In-Chief Forum last September that “generals have been reduced to rubble” and that “they have been reduced to a point where it’s embarrassing to our country.” Yet, not only has he failed to fire them, he has elevated some of them to top civilian posts. This is beyond Orwellian.

If Trump really meant to change direction in Afghanistan, he would first have fired those who broke our mission there and those who have turned our military into something that former Marine Jude Eden warned is “more ready for motherhood than for warfare.”

In reality, it would be better to choose the first 10 names in the telephone book to identify strategic interests in the Middle East than the current crop of generals. The only thing worse than not having a winning strategy in the Middle East is sending our troops into harm’s way without such a strategy, without even identifying the enemy and their threat doctrine.

Trump’s Afghanistan policy: D-Day, NOT Vietnam

Evan Vucci | AP Images

Conservative Review, by Jeffrey Lord, Aug. 28, 2017:

The president’s Afghanistan speech was direct and to the point.

All of America, at this point, is well familiar with the president’s oft-stated views on foreign policy. The Trump Doctrine essentially boils down to three points:

1. America should always be focused first and foremost on its own national security interests.

2. No nation-building.

3. Win.

These three points were hammered home repeatedly in his recent address to the nation on Afghanistan, as seen here with these excerpts from the speech(emphasis added):

“But we must also acknowledge the reality I am here to talk about tonight: that nearly 16 years after September 11th attacks, after the extraordinary sacrifice of blood and treasure, the American people are weary of war without victory. Nowhere is this more evident than with the war in Afghanistan, the longest war in American history — 17 years.

“I share the American people’s frustration. I also share their frustration over a foreign policy that has spent too much time, energy, money, and, most importantly, lives trying to rebuild countries in our own image, instead of pursuing our security interests above all other considerations. […]

“We are a partner and a friend, but we will not dictate to the Afghan people how to live, or how to govern their own complex society. We are not nation-building again — we are killing terrorists. […]

Micromanagement from Washington, D.C., does not win battles; they are won in the field drawing upon the judgment and expertise of wartime commanders and frontline soldiers acting in real time, with real authority, and with a clear mission to defeat the enemy. […]

“America will work with the Afghan government as long as we see determination and progress. However, our commitment is not unlimited, and our support is not a blank check. […] Our patience is not unlimited. We will keep our eyes wide open.”

In short, this is drawing a line — a bright line — between, as it were, the policy that produced D-Day and the policy that produced Vietnam and (in the Obama era) the losses in Iraq.

There is reason for concern, and it was well expressed by my colleague Daniel Horowitz. To wit:

“The same generals who failed us in Afghanistan for a generation, the same generals who are more political and politically correct than politicians, the same generals who covered up Extortion 17, are now the foxes guarding the henhouse.”

Bingo. That is the caution for sure. History, however, and as always, provides an answer.

One of the lessons of running a winning war is to be found with Abraham Lincoln’s conduct of the Civil War. Lincoln, as with President Trump, came to office quickly confronting the need for a successful military strategy.

As events turned out the 16th president wound up hiring and firing seven — say again, seven — generals. They were, as noted here, “Irwin McDaniel, George B. McClellan (who was rehired and refired), John Pope, Joe Hooker, Franz Sigal (also fired twice), John C. Fremont (also fired twice), and William Rosecrans.”

Famously, Lincoln finally turned to Ulysses S. Grant,  who, as noted by the Smithsonian, “had gained Lincoln’s confidence after winning crucial victories at Vicksburg, Mississippi, and elsewhere in the West. In Grant, Lincoln had finally found a general who would muster the full strength of the Union army against the Confederacy.”

And as the legendary story goes, when Lincoln was told Grant drank too much whiskey the president replied that he wanted to know what Grant was drinking so that he could send a case of it to the rest of his generals.

Skip ahead to Korea. Truman famously fired General Douglas MacArthur for insubordination. The war became a stalemate, and an issue in the 1952 presidential campaign. The Republican candidate was the hero of D-Day — General Dwight D. Eisenhower. Ike promised that, if elected, he would go to Korea. He was elected, in a landslide, and soon headed to Korea to make his own assessment of the war with his practiced military eye.

Upon taking office, he had his secretary of state, John Foster Dulles, relay to the Indian government and, hence, to the Chinese Communist government of Mao Zedong that the new U.S. president was prepared to use nuclear weapons if negotiations to end the war post-haste failed. The threat worked. The war ended.

The point is clear: In a situation where generals are not getting the job done, it is up to the president to fire them and fire them again and again until he finds the one Ulysses Grant/Dwight Eisenhower guy who will win.

I would suggest here that President Trump is exactly that kind of Lincoln-esque/Eisenhower-esque president. He is famous for his desire to win — and his promises of America “having so much winning, the country would get sick of winning.” If progress is not made in Afghanistan— and pronto — there is no doubt Trump will be looking quickly for a replacement.

Which is to say, Trump’s basic philosophy is akin to that of another president — Franklin D. Roosevelt. Recall the words of FDR the day after Pearl Harbor: “As commander in chief of the Army and Navy, I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense. But always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us.

“No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.”

Note well there was nothing in those words that mentioned the words “exit strategy.” FDR — and, across the pond, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill — were about one thing and one thing only: total victory.

So, too, is President Trump. And thank God for that.

Jeffrey Lord is a former White House political director under Reagan and a CNN commentator. He writes from Pennsylvania and is the author of “What America Needs: The Case for Trump.” Email him at

The Generals Surge Into Afghanistan

National security adviser H.R. McMaster, speaks during the news briefing at the White House, in Washington, Friday, August 25, 2017. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

PJ Media, by Michael Ledeen, Aug. 28, 2017:

You shouldn’t be surprised that Generals McMaster, Mattis, and Kelly convinced President Trump to send more American troops into Afghanistan. It’s what they know, after all, recalling the old gag: if you’ve got a hammer, you look for nails to hit. And it also, alas, reminds me of Alexander Haig’s concerns about our covert support for the Contras. He feared the operation was “too big to hide, too small to win.”


As Angelo Codevilla has rightly asked: How will we know when we have won? Are a few thousand more men and women sufficient for that task?

Notice that you can’t answer the questions by simply looking at the Afghan battlefield. It’s bigger than that.

The Taliban are vigorously supported by Iran, yet our Afghan strategy does not discuss it. I don’t believe it’s possible for us to dominate Afghan fighting without defeating the Iranians. We must put an end to Iranian training and arming of Taliban terrorists. This can’t be done without cutting off the Taliban killers from the Islamic Republic. Indeed, there is a better way. As I wrote a week ago:

Instead of little tactical expressions of our displeasure, we should do to the Persians what (Eli) Lake and (Steve) Bryen want to do to the NORKs: mount a direct challenge to the Tehran regime. Iran is at the center of the enemy alliance; if the regime came down, it would change the world.

But I can’t find any reference to the Persians in the president’s Afghan speech. Insofar as the president’s speech looks at the regional correlation of forces, it’s mostly about Pakistan, which is certainly worthy of serious consideration. But Pakistan has limited geographic and ideological passions. Their main concern is India. The Iranians have bigger appetites: they intend to dominate the whole region (and eventually, as they have often said, the whole world).

You can’t win in Afghanistan without coming to grips with Tehran, but we don’t do that. Mike Flynn wanted to — with a political campaign similar to the one that brought down the Soviet Empire — but his successor prefers to send Americans to fight terrorists on the ground, and neither he nor I nor anyone else I know wants to send troops into Iran.

So we do nothing and say nothing, except the tedious discussion of the nuclear deal, when the serious question isn’t about the deal but about Iran.

Generals McMaster, Kelly, and Mattis know this. But like every U.S. administration since 1979, they are unwilling to design a strategy for regime change in Tehran.

Some knowledgeable people believe that our generals think that eventually the Iranians will do something so egregious that we will have to act, but I find myself wondering it this isn’t just an excuse for inaction. On other days, I wonder if that scenario would actually produce real action, anyway: Remember that Iranian plot to blow up a D.C. restaurant, thereby killing the hated Saudi ambassador, and incidentally many well-paid Americans? That was pretty egregious, and we caught them.

What did we do? We clicked our tongues. Yes, that was Obamatime, and Trump has already shown a willingness to act violently against enemies. But still, I wonder.

That by itself is worrisome, because I want Khamenei & Co. to be absolutely certain that Trump would violently and relentlessly bring them down if such a thing happened on his watch. Are they certain?

The Afghan “strategy” doesn’t give them cause for such certainty.