- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 20, 2017

Defense Secretary James Mattis told reporters Sunday he is “comfortable” with how the White House reached its long-awaited decision on its war plans for Afghanistan, while remaining tight-lipped on the specifics of the strategy.

“I am very comfortable that the strategic process was sufficiently rigorous and did not go in with a pre-set position,” Mr. Mattis told reporters travelling with him during a diplomatic visit to Jordan, which is the first time the former U.S. Central Command chief will visit the country as defense chief.

His comments came a day after President Trump tweeted that he and his top national security staff have reached a decision on the way ahead in Afghanistan, after key meetings on a slew of defense issues at Camp David over the weekend.

“Important day spent at Camp David with our very talented Generals and military leaders. Many decisions made, including on Afghanistan,” Mr. Trump tweeted Saturday.

The online announcement followed calls inside and outside Washington for the the White House to finalize a new Afghan plan.

Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, released his Afghanistan plan last week while expressing frustration with the administration’s delay.

“Nearly seven months into President Trump’s administration, we’ve had no strategy at all as conditions on the ground have steadily worsened,” Mr. McCain said Thursday. “The thousands of Americans putting their lives on the line in Afghanistan deserve better from their commander in chief.”

The process reportedly has been stymied by White House infighting. One faction, led by White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, had been pressing Mr. Trump for a full withdrawal of U.S. forces, to be possibly replaced by roughly 5,000 private security contractors.

Other administration officials, reportedly including White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, back a war plan calling for more than 3,900 additional U.S. troops for Afghanistan.

When pressed for details on the new Afghan war plan finalized over the weekend, Mr. Mattis replied: “The president has made a decision. As he said, he wants to be the one to announce it to the American people.”

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