President Obama went through the same gauntlet when taking over the White House from President Bush in 2008. Each new administration must pickup where the prior administration left off, and this is especially true when it comes to the continued prosecution of America’s global war on terror. Last night, from a military base in Arlington, Va, President Trump outlined the way forward in Afghanistan, which has become the longest running war in American history.
Some excerpts of the speech via YouTube:
Reuters reports on the new strategy:
President Donald Trump committed U.S. troops to an open-ended war in Afghanistan, a decision the Afghan government welcomed on Tuesday but which Taliban insurgents warned would make the country a “graveyard for the American empire”.
Trump offered few specifics in a speech on Monday but promised a stepped-up military campaign against the Taliban who have gained ground against U.S.-backed Afghan government forces. He also singled out Pakistan for harboring militants in safe havens on its soil.
Trump, who had in the past advocated a U.S. withdrawal, acknowledged he was going against his instincts in approving the new campaign plan sought by his military advisers but said he was convinced that leaving posed more risk.
“The consequences of a rapid exit are both predictable and unacceptable,” he said. “A hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum that terrorists, including ISIS and al Qaeda, would instantly fill.”
Still, he promised an end to “nation-building” by U.S. forces in what has become American’s longest war and stressed that ultimately Afghanistan’s struggling police and army must defeat the Taliban.
“The stronger the Afghan security forces become, the less we will have to do. Afghans will secure and build their own nation and define their own future. We want them to succeed.”
Despite Trump’s insistence on the campaign trail that the United States should get out of this war and bring everyone home, it seemed evident for months that a drawdown wasn’t going to happen. After all, if America withdrew and ceded Afghanistan back to the Taliban or ISIS, they would have essentially declared victory which is not an outcome that the President would enjoy watching on CNN.
President Obama already attempted to scale back our presence in the region down to a skeleton force, which has been essentially locked in a tit-for-tat endless skirmish with the enemy. Unsurprisingly, President Trump decided to take an entirely new direction.
The Afghan government seems to be on board with whatever changes the Trump administration wishes to make:
While Trump said he would not discuss troop levels or details of the new strategy, U.S. officials said on Monday he had signed off on Defense Secretary James Mattis’ plans to send about 4,000 more troops to Afghanistan.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, in welcoming the strategy, said it would increase the capacity of the training mission for Afghan forces, including enhancing its fledgling air force and doubling the size of the Afghan special forces.
“I am grateful to President Trump and the American people for this affirmation of support … for our joint struggle to rid the region from the threat of terrorism,” Ghani said in a statement.
There’s no reason to provide detailed information on troop levels or timing, let the military leaders sort that out. The major point of the speech last night was to reset the field and explain the new way that America intends to “win” in Afghanistan. In such a tribal society, I’m not sure what “winning” will look like, but I’m sure we’ll know pretty quickly if this new strategy is making inroads in the coming months.
Afghanistan just became Trump’s war last night.