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President Donald Trump asking advisers ‘tough questions’ on Afghan war plan: US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson gives an opening statement during the ASEAN-US Ministerial meeting of the 50th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) regional security forum in suburban Manila on August 6, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says President Donald Trump has asked his advisers “tough questions” about what strategy to execute in Afghanistan.
Trump has become increasingly frustrated with his advisers and recently suggested firing the top military commander during a tense meeting at the White House.
Tillerson did not say what his personal advice to the president would be, but said Trump would not be content with continuing the war as before.
“The president is not willing to accept that, so he is asking some tough questions,” the top US diplomat told reporters in Manila on the sidelines of a regional security forum.
Trump’s national security team is reviewing the war plan in Afghanistan, 16 years after the US and its allies invaded the country under the pretext of the war on terror following the September 11, 2001 attacks in the US.
Tillerson said the National Security Council has met three times on the issue. “The president is asking some very, very pointed questions, and I think good questions that he should be asking.”
“So we want to give him good thorough answers and good thorough analysis to go with that — a very clear-eyed view, a very realistic view of what the future is likely to look like.”
But Trump’s advisers are reportedly split on whether to send more troops to the war-torn country or to pull out.
During a recent meeting with his national security team, Trump acknowledged that the US is “losing” in Afghanistan.
“We aren't winning," Trump complained, according to officials present at the July 19 meeting. "We are losing."
Trump also expressed his frustration with Army General John Nicholson, commander of US forces in Afghanistan, over his failure to win the war and wanted to fire him.
Trump’s generals have described the Afghan conflict as an “eroding stalemate” and even after years of intensive help from the US and other NATO nations, Afghanistan’s security forces are still struggling to hold back an emboldened Taliban.
In an early move to address the situation, Trump gave his Pentagon chief, former general James Mattis, broad powers to set troop numbers. But several months later the level remains stuck at about 8,400 US and about 5,000 NATO troops.
Mattis wants to wait until the White House has come up with a strategy, not just for Afghanistan but the broader region, before he commits to adjustments.
Other Trump advisers, including his influential strategy chief Steve Bannon, reportedly favor withdrawing the American troops or sending private military contractors.

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