President Trump has yet to speak with the U.S. general in command of forces in Afghanistan, despite approving a new military strategy earlier this year that committed more troops and funding for America’s longest war.
“I haven’t spoken with him,” Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr., U.S. commander in Afghanistan, told reporters Nov. 8 in Brussels.
The lack of contact between the commander-in-chief and the top military official in Afghanistan is unusual. Nicholson said he spoke to President Barack Obama twice in the 10 months they overlapped.
The general’s comments came in response to questions about whether he felt Trump had confidence in him as commander. Reports over the summer indicated the President was considering firing Nicholson over the lack of progress in Afghanistan. But Nicholson said he felt Trump had faith in him despite not having a face-to-face meeting or phone call.
“Yes, I believe I have his confidence,” Nicholson told reporters. “And I say that because the policy that we received on August 21st is everything that I asked for.”
In a primetime address to the nation that night, Trump authorized a new plan that allowed the military to deploy more than 3,000 additional troops, who would advise Afghan forces and work more closely with local commanders. The White House also granted the Pentagon more leeway in launching airstrikes against the Taliban, Islamic State-affiliated militants, and other insurgents, which has thrown the war-torn nation in further disarray.
A United Nations review of the security situation recently stated that Afghanistan’s declining security threatened the gains achieved. The conflict is an “eroding stalemate in which the Taliban have increased the territory they are able to contest and, in some areas, have begun to consolidate their hold,” the U.N. said.
There are now about 14,000 American and 6,500 NATO troops inside Afghanistan. Eleven U.S. service members have been killed in action in 2017, two more than last year.