The Pentagon under President Donald Trump is enjoying greater freedom to run its wars the way it wants — and not constantly seek White House approval on important decisions.
Nowhere has the shift been more visible than in the fight against the Islamic State group in northern Syria, where under Barack Obama even minor tweaks to US plans underwent exhaustive White House scrutiny.
Since Trump’s inauguration, the Marine Corps has brought an artillery battery into Syria, and the Army has flowed in hundreds of Rangers, bringing the total number of US forces there to almost 1,000.
Commanders are weighing the possibility of deploying hundreds more, and the Pentagon this week announced it had provided artillery support and choppered local forces behind enemy lines in a bid to seize a strategic dam.
The greater leeway marks a departure for the National Security Council (NSC), which coordinates foreign and military policy and implements the president’s national security agenda.
Under Obama, the NSC oversaw just about every aspect of America’s wars in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, with then Pentagon chief Ash Carter was kept on a short leash.
Trump, conversely, has repeatedly deferred to his defense secretary, Jim Mattis, on military moves.
Mattis, a retired general, has delegated expanded authorities to his battlefield commanders.
“Jim Mattis has been given the latitude to conduct military operations in the way he sees best,” Pentagon spokesman Chris Sherwood said.—Agencies