Donald Trump isn’t just announcing major military policy by tweet—he’s basically leaving it at that. He’s not making actual policy, just wild pronouncements, with military leaders left in the dark about what they’re supposed to do. When Gen. Robert Neller, the Marine Corps commandant, was asked by a Marine stationed in Afghanistan what Trump’s tweets about withdrawing from Syria and Afghanistan would mean for deployed troops, Neller answered that “the honest answer is I have no idea.”
Navy Secretary Richard Spencer had a similar answer about what orders he’s gotten to draw down troops: “Nothing formal, just tweets.”
The head of U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces in Afghanistan, Gen. Austin Miller, hadn’t been issued orders about the drawdown, according to multiple officers familiar with the matter. Morning intelligence briefings for days had focused on publicly available news stories because no official information was available internally.
Add in the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, followed by Donald Trump’s abrupt “you can’t quit because I’m firing you” move days later when he realized how critical of him Mattis’ resignation letter had been, and it’s a recipe for chaos. Whatever you think of U.S. military involvement in Syria and Afghanistan, the troops stationed in those countries deserve better than to be sitting thousands of miles from home, steeped in this kind of uncertainty.
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