The Trump administration has ceased disclosing to the public when U.S. troops are deployed on the ground in Iraq and Syria, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The Obama administration made a practice of announcing all conventional force deployments, letting the public know when it was sending U.S. service members into harm’s way. But Trump, who campaigned on promises to rely on “the element of surprise” in warfare, has in his two months in office already dispatched hundreds of Marines and paratroopers to active war zones in the Middle East without informing the public or Congress.
Pentagon officials confirmed the change in policy, saying it was important to “maintain tactical surprise.” But former government officials say the move violates the public’s “right to know.”
“It’s truly shocking that the current administration furtively deploys troops without public debate or describing their larger strategy,” said Ned Price, National Security Council spokesman under President Obama.
Lawrence Korb, a former assistant Secretary of Defense under President Reagan currently working at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, agreed.
“If you’re sending Americans in harm’s way over there, people need to know what the overarching goal is,” he said. “It’s important to have a public debate. Congress must have a role in deciding what happens next, otherwise this is a slippery slope.”
Congress has not voted to authorize any military action in Syria. Instead, the Pentagon is relying on the more than decade-old Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) that Congress passed in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Both the Obama administration and now the Trump administration have interpreted that authorization as imposing no end date and no geographical limits for the so-called “war on terror.”
Defense Secretary James Mattis, however, says he wants Congress to vote on a new AUMF to authorize military action against ISIS. He told a congressional committee in March that he “does not understood why the Congress hasn’t come forward with this, at least to debate.”
Alice Ollstein is a reporter at Talking Points Memo, covering national politics. She graduated from Oberlin College in 2010 and has been reporting in DC ever since, covering the Supreme Court, Congress and national elections for TV, radio, print, and online outlets. Her work has aired on Free Speech Radio News, All Things Considered, Channel News Asia, and Telesur, and her writing has been published by The Atlantic, La Opinión, and The Hill Rag. She was elected in 2016 as an at-large board member of the DC Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Alice grew up in Santa Monica, California and began working for local newspapers in her early teens.