Jun 15, 2017

What Mattis left out of his testimony

Alex Brandon / AP

On Wednesday, Defense Secretary James Mattis confirmed that President Trump had given the Department of Defense the authority to set troop levels in Afghanistan.

Bloomberg's Eli Lake, one of the best-sourced reporters covering the administration's national security team, has written a column on the machinations behind Mattis' Afghanistan announcement. In the article, which is worth reading in full, Lake argues that Trump stands out among recent presidents because "he's agreed in principle to sending more troops to Afghanistan, but he has yet to agree to the broader strategy for winning America's longest war."

Between the lines: In his statement, Mattis describes the troop-level decision as "part of a broader strategy we are developing...[which we will] present to the President in the coming weeks." Lake says that's technically correct but misses the larger truth:

  • The strategy's broad outlines, "an increase in special operations forces to train, advise and assist Afghan forces; a more robust plan to go after elements in Pakistan that aid the Taliban; the deployment of more air power and artillery; and a political commitment to the survival of the current government in Kabul — have been in place since April."
  • "Indeed, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster has been pressing the case for the strategy with cabinet secretaries and the president. Initially he had hoped to get the president to agree to the strategy before last month's NATO summit."

The kicker: Lake points out that during Mattis' hearing Tuesday before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator John McCain told the Defense Secretary "it makes it hard for us to support you when we don't have a strategy." ... "Mattis replied that a strategy was being put together now ... What Mattis didn't say is why McCain has yet to see Trump's Afghanistan strategy: because Trump hasn't agreed to the one his top advisers prepared more than two months ago."

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DMV area issues coronavirus stay-at-home orders

Data: Axios reporting; Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser issued stay-at-home orders on Monday, with exceptions for residents engaged in essential services, including health care and government functions.

The big picture: The states and territory are the latest to announce policies to enforce social distancing, which have affected almost 250 million Americans. More than 1.5 billion people worldwide had been asked to stay home as of last week.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 1 min ago - Health

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 p.m. ET: 766,336 — Total deaths: 36,873 — Total recoveries: 160,001.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in confirmed cases. Total confirmed cases as of 3 p.m. ET: 153,246 — Total deaths: 2,828 — Total recoveries: 5,545.
  3. Federal government latest: The White House will extend its social distancing guidelines until April 30 — Rep. Nydia Velázquez diagnosed with "presumed" coronavirus infection.
  4. State updates: Virginia and Maryland issued stay-at-home orders to residents, joining 28 other states — Florida megachurch pastor arrested for refusing to call off mass services.
  5. World updates: Italy reports 1,590 recoveries from the virus, its highest ever.
  6. In photos: Navy hospital ship arrives in Manhattan
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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Cuomo: Engaging in politics during coronavirus crisis is "anti-American"

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said during a Monday press briefing that he won't get into a political tussle with President Trump — calling it "counterproductive" and "anti-American" — as his state deals with the most confirmed coronavirus cases in the country.

The backdrop: Trump said during an appearance on "Fox & Friends" earlier Monday that Cuomo has received high polling numbers during the outbreak because New York has received federal aid.