a nation at war
President Trump is headed to Camp David on Friday to discuss national security, joined for his sojourn to Maryland by National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, Defense Secretary James Mattis, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
Though the topic at hand for the weekend is South Asia strategy, a long-running foreign policy struggle within the Trump administration is what the president will do about the 16-year war in Afghanistan. On Friday, Foreign Policy published a deep dive into Trump's approach to the conflict — including the revelation that Trump personally met with the CEO of a mining company last July about the prospect of harvesting Afghanistan's natural resources:
In his conversation with Michael Silver, the head of American Elements, a firm specializing in the production of advanced metals and chemicals, Trump learned of the enormous wealth buried beneath the Afghan soil: perhaps more than $1 trillion in untapped mineral resources in the form of copper, iron, and rare earth metals.
Trump's interest in the mining plan was first sparked by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who met with Trump in Riyadh in May, according to an administration official. "We are sitting on enormous wealth," Ghani told Trump. “Why aren't the American companies in this instead of China?"
Deeply reluctant to continue a 16-year-old war that has left more than 2,400 Americans dead and cost more than one trillion dollars, the news of Afghanistan's mineral wealth struck a chord with the president. "Trump wants to be repaid," said a source close to the White House. "He's trying to see where the business deal is." [Foreign Policy]
Two unnamed administration officials confirmed the meeting to Foreign Policy, and the prospect of "an incredible economic windfall" apparently has the president considering handing the war off to thousands of private military contractors who could get the job done on the conflict side of things. That's the proposal pitched to Trump by Erik Prince, the founder of private security firm Blackwater and brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, though even Prince admits the idea isn't very popular: "McMaster generally does not like this plan," Prince told Foreign Policy, while Mattis at least seems to be "not hating me."
Read more about the quagmire in Afghanistan and Trump's varied options to solve it at Foreign Policy.