Author: David Wood

Military Gains Bigger Voice As Pentagon Waits For Civilian Nominees

WASHINGTON ― Thousands of American combat troops are fighting in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. Nuclear-armed North Korea is testing long-range missiles. Russian troops are battling alongside insurgents in eastern Ukraine while U.S. special forces are working with the Ukraine army. U.S. aircraft are tangling with Russian planes over Syria and conducting strikes in Yemen, Libya and Somalia, while China is confronting U.S. warships in the Pacific. But here in Washington, the Defense Department seems almost abandoned. Two months into his administration, President Donald Trump, who promised to “make America safe again” and to manage a “massive” rebuilding of the U.S. military, has left the Pentagon without the top officials needed to turn those vague promises into reality and to manage the inevitable crises abroad. “Our adversaries are unlikely to wait long to test the new Administration,” a Pentagon panel of senior business leaders and policy experts warned last September, urging that the next president get senior staff ready even before the inauguration. That didn’t happen. Now, of the two dozen senior posts that provide critical direction to the Defense Department, only two are filled: Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Deputy Secretary Robert Work, a temporary holdover from the Obama administration. That leaves the Pentagon struggling to make critical decisions without the people needed to thoroughly analyze proposals and examine potential consequences. For instance, Gen. Joseph Votel, chief of U.S. Central...

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Afghanistan Is All Ready To Be Donald Trump’s First Foreign Policy Disaster

Nasir Wakif/Reuters Afghan security forces prepare for battle on the outskirts of Kunduz in August. Afghanistan is failing.  Fifteen years after the United States first scattered the Taliban with high-altitude bombing, the battlefield gains achieved by tens of thousands of U.S. troops are in jeopardy from a resurgent Taliban.  The United States has spent $115 billion on this longest war in its history. The conflict has taken the lives of 1,865 Americans and wounded 20,224 (as of Nov. 16), many with life-shattering injuries. Yet the main goals set forth by Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama haven’t been achieved: Afghanistan does not have a stable, working democracy and terrorists still find a safe haven there. Even stalwart defenders of the U.S. intervention, such as Vice President Joe Biden, now seem deeply concerned. But few people in the U.S. are paying attention. The 15th anniversary of the start of the war passed last month almost without notice. The stark choices facing President-elect Donald Trump ― more troops? more money? withdrawal? ― received no attention in the presidential campaign, an ill omen for the months ahead when careful and considered action will be needed. And time is short. Major cities across Afghanistan are under siege by the Taliban and other Islamic extremist militias, which are steadily taking more territory. In their path, the U.S. has some 7,000 U.S. troops training and advising Afghan...

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