President Donald Trump tweeted a recent decision that he’d be pulling out American troops from Afghanistan and Syria. The news came as a shock to the Pentagon and commanders overseas, neither of which had heard the policy shift was even a consideration.
In wake of the decision, members of the military admitted they “have no idea” what is happening, how they’ll move forward or what to expect in the coming weeks.
In a Wall Street Journal report, Gen. Robert Neller, the Marine Corps commandant at Bost Air Field in Afghanistan, was asked by a Marine what the president’ orders meant for those deployed.
“That’s a really good question,” he replied. “And the honest answer is I have no idea.”
“We’ve won against ISIS,” Trump said in a short Twitter this week. “We’ve beaten them and we’ve beaten them badly. We’ve taken back the land. And now it’s time for our troops to come back home.”
Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) said in a CNN interview with Jim Sciutto that the decision seemed to indicate the policy was about bringing the troops home for Christmas. CNN’s John Avlon agreed, also noting that Trump might see it as this, and clearly not have the facts. As Neller explained, that’s far from the case.
“Are your families asking if you’re leaving?” Neller asked a group of Marines in Helmand province. Many said they were. “You’re not leaving.”
The Journal explained that none of the commanders have details about the president’s plan to draw down the troops.
“The Marines have laughed with their leader and his honesty, but it belied a frustration among officers and personnel about the lack of details from Washington: If Gen. Neller, one of the highest-ranking officers in the American military doesn’t know what’s happening, who does?” The Journal wrote.
In another case, Gen. Austin Miller, the head of U.S. and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces in Afghanistan, received morning intelligence briefings that focused on news reports because there was no official communication from the White House or Pentagon.
“I don’t think anybody really knows exactly what’s going to happen,” Gen. Neller told some Marines Friday. “I’ve read the same stuff in the newspaper you did, I have a little more knowledge than that, but not a whole lot more.”