Since taking office, President Donald Trump has been meeting with enlisted troops to get a better understanding of how they feel the war in Afghanistan has been progressing.
Trump did not want to meet with higher ranking officers, instead choosing to meet with enlisted troops to get a more candid assessment of the America’s longest-running war, Business Insider reported.
“I want to sit down with some enlisted guys that have been there,” Trump reportedly told advisers, according to Peter Bergen, author of “Trump and His Generals: The Cost of Chaos.”
“I don’t want any generals in here. I don’t want any officers,” he added.
Enlisted members of the military may have been seen as better able to critique the war effort as their roles tend to place them closer to combat and the consequences of a command. Enlisted members are also less concerned with the day-to-day politics that might affect higher ranking officers.
Trump reportedly compared the opinions of senior military officers to those of a restaurant consultant. Rather than taking the advice of the consultant, who would suggest expanding a kitchen for renovations, Trump argued it would be more prudent and cost effective to ask the advice of the waiters who see the day to day operations and can identify the most basic problems in a restaurant’s functions.
One of the first groups Trump reportedly met with were enlisted Navy SEALs who criticized the war and said the war in Afghanistan is “unwinnable.”
“NATO’s a joke. Nobody knows what they’re doing,” the SEALs reportedly told Trump. “We don’t fight to win. The morale is terrible. It’s totally corrupt.”
On another occasion on July 18, 2017, Trump held a White House meeting with four more Army and Air Force senior enlisted service members.
“I’ve heard plenty of ideas from a lot of people, but I want to hear it from the people on the ground,” Trump said at a press conference for the July 2017 meeting.
Following that meeting, Trump reportedly gathered senior military officials to the White House situation room, where he then warned that the enlisted members he spoke with know “a lot more than you generals,” and said that “we’re losing” the war in Afghanistan.
Many senior military officials expressed similar misgivings about the war when speaking candidly with U.S. government agency Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) in an effort to identify failures in Afghanistan. Those candid assessments of those officers, coupled with their more positive public views of the war effort, formed the basis of the ‘Afghanistan Papers;’ which have identified dishonest official views and reports of the war in Afghanistan.
The Trump administration has since gone back and forth on how to bring about an end to the 18-year war. Trump had engaged in peace talks with the Taliban, but called off the negotiations after deadly Taliban attacks throughout the process. Talks briefly resumed in December but were again paused over renewed attacks.
Recent reports have also alleged a Trump decision for the withdrawal of up to 4,000 U.S. troops in the coming weeks and months, though no Trump administration officials have publicly confirmed the reporting.