Trump Announces His Way Forward in Afghanistan

President Donald Trump speaks Monday evening at Fort Myer, Va., where he outlined his strategy for the war in Afghanistan. Screenshot photo

President Trump on Monday night announced his strategy toward America’s longest war: no public disclosure? of troop numbers or timetables, coupled with fewer restrictions on rules of engagement, with an overall goal of an “enduring victory” in Afghanistan.

“Our nation must seek an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the tremendous sacrifices that have been made, especially the sacrifices of lives,” Trump said during a primetime speech at Fort Myer in Arlington, Va. “The men and women who serve our nation in combat deserve a plan for victory. They deserve the tools they need and the trust they have earned to fight and to win.”

Trump’s speech avoided announcing any increase in the troop levels in Afghanistan, though an increase is expected in the coming months. Defense Secretary James Mattis, in a statement late Monday, said he is working to carry out the president’s strategy. The additional service members will be tasked with of advising the Afghan National Army and Afghan Air Force to the hopeful goal of Afghanistan being able to keep itself secure, along with holding off a resurgent Taliban and facing the constant threat from ISIS-Khorasan in the country’s east.

“Working alongside our allies, we will break their will, dry up their recruitment, keep them from crossing our borders, and yes, we will defeat them, and we will defeat them handily,” Trump said.

The way forward for the US will not be decided by timetables for withdrawal, but instead on how conditions are on the ground, Trump said.

While Trump, in his address, said a strong and capable Afghan force will is a goal of the US presence, it does not mean a “blank check.”

Monday’s speech comes after months of deliberation inside the administration and the Pentagon. The White House’s national security staff, Defense Department officials, and other officials held a long meeting on Friday at Camp David, Md., to decide on the way forward.

Speaking Sunday before the announcement was detailed, Mattis said the president is making a “strategic decision” on a broader South Asia strategy and he is making the “tactical and operational decisions.”

The Trump administration has made largely somber pronouncements on the state of play in Afghanistan, with Mattis telling a Senate committee in June that the US was “not winning.”

The enemy is “surging,” Mattis warned. The Taliban was set to have another “good year” if things did not change.

Trump’s speech on his strategy toward Afghanistan follows NATO’s announcement earlier this summer that its member nations would also send additional troops to help advise Afghan forces.