The meeting grew stormy when Trump said Defense Secretary James Mattis and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joseph Dunford, a Marine general, should consider firing Army General John Nicholson, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, for not winning the war. “We aren’t winning,” he told them, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
In addition, once the meeting concluded, Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, got into what one official called “a shouting match” with White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster over the direction of U.S. policy.
Some officials left the meeting “stunned” by the president’s vehement complaints that the military was allowing the United States to lose the war. Mattis, McMaster and other top aides are putting together answers to Trump’s questions in a way to try to get him to approve the strategy, the officials said.
Another meeting of top aides is scheduled on Thursday. Although Trump earlier this year gave Mattis the authority to deploy U.S. military forces as he sees fit, in fact the defense secretary’s plans to add around 4,000 more U.S. troops to the 8,400 currently deployed in Afghanistan are being caught up in the delay surrounding the strategy, the officials said.