President Trump’s national security adviser H.R. McMaster on Saturday defended President Trump’s strategy on winning the war in Afghanistan.
The president has not announced a comprehensive strategy on Afghanistan yet, but according to McMaster he has made “a number of decisions” on the military approach there.
“The president’s already made some important decisions on Afghanistan,” McMaster said in an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt that aired Saturday.
McMaster said Trump does not necessarily want to telegraph his intentions. “You’ve heard in pieces” the strategy, he said.
“And what we’re endeavoring to do is pull this all together in a regional strategy that makes sense,” he continued. Trump has authorized the Pentagon to take the lead on a number of military decisions during his administration.
McMaster also added that the White House wants to see a “change in behavior” from interested groups in the region, particularly Pakistan. The top aide said that while Pakistan has taken “great losses” fighting the Taliban, they have done so “selectively.”
“This is Pakistan in particular that we want to really see a change in– and a reduction of their support– for– these groups,” he said. “I mean, this is– of course, you know, a very paradoxical situation, right, where Pakistan is taking great losses.”
“They have fought very hard against these groups,” McMaster argued, “but they’ve done so really only selectively.”
He said that Trump is making clear that the U.S. will no longer tolerate any support for the Taliban or related groups.
“The president has also made clear that he, that we need to see a change in behavior of those in the region, which includes those who are providing safe haven and support bases for the Taliban,” McMaster added.
McMaster defended the campaign in Afghanistan, arguing they had seen “tremendous” success in the country.
“There’s a tremendously successful campaign going on with Afghan forces in the lead. It’s an unreported campaign in Nangarhar Province of Afghanistan,” McMaster said.
“We’re not gonna talk tactics anymore, right?” he added. “Everything before was, you know, troop levels and very specific details announcing to the enemy years in advance exactly the number of troops you’re gonna have, exactly what they’re gonna do and what they’re not gonna do. And so the president has said, that ‘That is not the way to fight a war. It never has been.’ This is an invention of recent years.”
McMaster also said the president “absolutely” has confidence in the commander in charge of the U.S. war effort against the Taliban and ISIS in Afghanistan.
The general defended Trump’s decisions in Afghanistan and the commander in charge of the mission following reports that the president wants to fire him.
According to reports this week of a situation room meeting in July, Trump believes Gen. John Nicholson – the commander in charge of Afghanistan – is “losing” the war in the country.
“I’ve known him for many years,” McMaster said of Nicholson. “I can’t imagine a more capable commander on any mission.”
He said the president “absolutely” has confidence in Nicholson. McMaster also reportedly defended the general in the situation room meeting.
McMaster himself has been the target of right-wing Trump supporters outraged at the general’s decision to renew security clearance for Susan Rice, former President Barack ObamaBarack ObamaOvernight Tech: Senate panel approves FCC nominees | Dem group invests in progressive startups | Tech groups rip Trump immigration plan Russian PM: New sanctions amount to ‘full-scale trade war’ America’s divisions: The greatest strategic vulnerability of our time MORE‘s national security adviser.
“General McMaster and I are working very well together,” Trump said in a statement Friday. “He is a good man and very pro–Israel. I am grateful for the work he continues to do serving our country.”
McMaster in the interview with Hewitt also argued that Trump’s loosening of restrictions on the military was beginning to see a “payoff.”
“The president has said that, he does not want to place restrictions on the military that undermine our ability to win battles in combat,” McMaster added. “He has lifted those restrictions, and you’re beginning to see the payoff of that as well.”
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