“It is a South Asia strategy; it not just an Afghanistan strategy,” Mr. Mattis said.
Stephen K. Bannon, who was recently removed as a top Trump adviser, fought the military’s recommendation for more troops and backed a number of alternative options — including using contractors instead of United States forces. (Mr. Bannon did not attend the meeting Mr. Trump convened on Friday at Camp David to discuss Afghan strategy.)
American military commanders have argued that the additional troops would enable the United States to advise select Afghan brigades in the field and to reverse gains made by the Taliban. But after nearly 16 years of war, critics say, the Trump administration needs to detail ways to elicit more cooperation from Pakistan, improve governance in Afghanistan and make the battlefield gains durable.
Few people believe the war is Afghanistan has been going well. Gen. John W. Nicholson, the commander of the American-led international force in Afghanistan, told Congress in February that the United States and its NATO allies were facing a “stalemate.”
The Pentagon later developed options to send 3,000 to 5,000 more American troops to Afghanistan, including hundreds of Special Operations forces. The reinforcements would be augmented by troop contributions from NATO nations, which American officials have already solicited.
An estimated 9,800 American troops are deployed to Afghanistan, most of them assigned to an international force of about 13,000 that is training and advising the Afghan military. About 2,000 American troops are assigned to fight Al Qaeda and other militant groups.
Mr. Trump was initially skeptical about sending more troops, and his review of Afghan strategy dragged on for months. While Mr. Trump has vowed to defeat terrorist groups, sending more American forces to Afghanistan could cost billions of dollars, and there is no assurance of producing a clear victory.
Several hard-line lawmakers, including Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican who is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, had complained that Mr. Trump was dragging his feet at a time when security in Afghanistan was eroding.
After meeting with his national security team on Friday, Mr. Trump tweeted on Saturday: “Many decisions made, including on Afghanistan.”
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