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President Donald Trump on Thursday praised the decision to drop a massive bunker-busting bomb in Afghanistan as an example of the “total authorization” he has given his military commanders.
But such boasts only deepen defense experts’ concerns that Trump is ceding the military too much influence over the United States’ actions abroad — creating the danger of an unbalanced policy that gives short shrift to interests like diplomacy.
Trump, who faced early criticism for relying on retired generals to fill key Cabinet posts, has placed career military men in the two main civilian posts that shape national security policy: Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, a retired Marine general, and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, an Army lieutenant general. At the same time, he has failed to fill most of the other top civilian posts that provide a major check on military prerogatives.
Trump has also allowed military commanders to wield more authority on troop deployments and other actions, most notably in Syria — in contrast to the Obama administration’s reputation for micromanaging even the smallest details of national security. But Trump declined to say whether he had let them make the call in Thursday’s bombing, which used the Air Force’s 21,000-pound “mother of all bombs” to attack a cave network used by the Islamic State.