News that President Donald Trump has delegated authority to determine U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan to the Pentagon is a deeply troubling development. This decision abdicates the president’s responsibility to determine when American soldiers go into battle. It also sets a dangerous precedent that separates military plans from wider U.S. foreign policy strategy.
There are a couple of possible explanations as to why the president could have made this decision. The most favorable reading is that Trump seeks to empower his extremely capable defense secretary to make timely decisions about resources based on the ebb and flow of battle. Reasonable people can disagree about the wisdom of this approach. But few would dispute the need for decisions about more troops to be taken as part of a wider strategy.