Scaling Back as an Option? The White House is unable to come to grips with developing a strategy for the Afghan conflict. The Resolute Support commander, General Nicholson, would like to see an increase of almost 4K new troops to allow for an expansion of the Train, Advise, and Assist (TAA) mission. Others in the U.S. government are reluctant to send more personnel into a quagmire with no end in sight. Pakistan continues to support the Haqqani Network and other Taliban groups and some Gulf nations are still financing the Taliban and the madrassas (producing Taliban recruits) in Pakistan. The National Unity Government (NUG) is divided (not unified) and ineffective. The Afghan Army and police senior leaders are corrupt and inept. But most important the Taliban are resurgent and enjoy a measure of popular support in the Pashtun areas. There seems no way out. The 4K additional personnel for the TAA mission is a band aid on the problem; it doesn't lead to a long-term solution. Until the corrupt Afghan government and incompetent security leadership get their act together nothing is going to improve. Some in the White House recognize the situation for what it is. Read more in "White House Looks at Scaling Back U.S. Military Presence in Afghanistan", The Wall Street Journal, July 30, 2017.
Plans for Afghanistan are MIA. Paul Shinkman, a national security writer for U.S. News & World Report, says the U.S.-backed Afghan government is faltering and needs White House support. The security situation is the worst it has been since the 2001 invasion by U.S. forces. The White House, U.S. DoD, and other government leaders are struggling to come to a consensus on what to do with America's longest-ever war. Read more in "Trump Plans for Afghanistan MIA as Pressure Builds in America's Longest War", August 1, 2017.
Erik Prince Strategic Plan for Afghanistan - Good for Contractors! A much discussed plan that was immediately dismissed by many political and military observers. But it seems the story won't die. Some commentators think the concept might save money and extricate the U.S. military from America's longest war. Read more in "Industry Talk: The Historic Implications of Erik Prince's Plan for Afghanistan", July 2017.
Trump not Happy with Generals. Although everyone assumes that President Trump has a special bond with his generals (SECDEF, NSC advisor, WH CoS, etc.) there is the possibility that the love affair is ending. See "Trump Says U.S. Losing Afghan War in Tense Meeting With Generals", NBC News, August 2, 2017. Additional speculation has it that McMaster is on the way out - he is on the receiving end of nasty press coverage from Fox News, Breitbart, Russian news agencies and trolls, and the Alt Right. Some rumors say he might be "moved up" to 4-stars to take General Nicholson's place as RS Commander.
Trump Skeptical of Generals. One former combatant in Afghanistan, Paul Szoldra, provides his analysis on Trump's dismissing the latest 'strategic plan' for Afghanistan provided by General McMaster. Read "Trump is Right to be Skeptical of the Pentagon When it Comes to Afghanistan", Task and Purpose, August 3, 2017.
More on Contractors for Afghanistan. Max Boot writes that a plan to use contractors for Afghanistan is flawed - says there is no silver bullet for fixing Afghanistan. "The Bad Faith Case for Contractors in Afghanistan", Commentary Magazine, August 1, 2017.
The John McCain Strategic Plan for Afghanistan. U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) says he will propose a plan for a U.S. strategy in Afghanistan as part of the upcoming defense authorization bill. See "McCain Says He Will Propose New Afghanistan Strategy", Gandara, August 1, 2017.