President Donald Trump addressed military personnel assembled at Fort Myer in Arlington, Virginia in a nationally-televised speech on Monday. Here are some key parts of the speech, which announced a recommitment of American forces to Afghanistan. While the president did not give a specific number, there are reports that 5000 or more troops can be expected. The announcement was met with approval by NATO, UK, and the Afghan government. Here are some salient parts of the speech:

1) Opening with a reference to the clashes in Charlottesville earlier in the month, he said “The young men and women we send to fight our wars abroad deserve to return to a country that is not at war with itself at home. We cannot remain a force for peace in the world if we are not at peace with each other. As we send our bravest to defeat our enemies overseas — and we will always win — let us find the courage to heal our divisions within.” 

2) The president acknowledged that the American people have grown tired of war. “Nearly 16 years after the September 11th attacks, after the extraordinary sacrifice of blood and treasure, the American people are weary of war without victory. Nowhere is this more evident than with the war in Afghanistan, the longest war in American history — 17 years! [Actually, it is 16.] I share the American people’s frustration. I also share their frustration over a foreign policy that has spent too much time, energy, money, and most importantly lives, trying to rebuild countries in our own image, instead of pursuing our security interests above all other considerations.”

3) Trump said that he has reconsidered an earlier position he had on the conflict: “My original instinct was to pull out — and, historically, I like following my instincts. But all my life I've heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office; in other words, when you're President of the United States. So I studied Afghanistan in great detail and from every conceivable angle.”

Three points Trump considered for his policy toward Afghanistan:

  • a) “First, our nation must seek an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the tremendous sacrifices that have been made … 
  • b) Second, the consequences of a rapid exit are both predictable and unacceptable. … A hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum that terrorists, including ISIS and al Qaeda, would instantly fill, just as happened before September 11th. … 
  • c)Third and finally, I concluded that the security threats we face in Afghanistan and the broader region are immense. Today, 20 U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organizations are active in Afghanistan and Pakistan — the highest concentration in any region anywhere in the world.”

4) Taking a swipe at Barack Obama, Trump said: “As we know, in 2011, America hastily and mistakenly withdrew from Iraq. … When I became President, I was given a bad and very complex hand. … We cannot repeat in Afghanistan the mistake our leaders made in Iraq.”

Unlike Obama, Trump said there is no timetable for withdrawal: “A core pillar of our new strategy is a shift from a time-based approach to one based on conditions. I’ve said it many times how counterproductive it is for the United States to announce in advance the dates we intend to begin, or end, military options. We will not talk about numbers of troops or our plans for further military activities. Conditions on the ground — not arbitrary timetables — will guide our strategy from now on. America’s enemies must never know our plans or believe they can wait us out. I will not say when we are going to attack, but attack we will.”

5) The president is letting the military do its job:  “Micromanagement from Washington, D.C. does not win battles. They are won in the field drawing upon the judgment and expertise of wartime commanders and frontline soldiers acting in real time, with real authority, and with a clear mission to defeat the enemy. … Our troops will fight to win. From now on, victory will have a clear definition: attacking our enemies, obliterating ISIS, crushing al-Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking over the country, and stopping mass terror attacks against Americans before they emerge.”

“Our commitment is not unlimited, and our support is not a blank check. The government of Afghanistan must carry their share of the military, political, and economic burden.” Promising victory, Trump said: “One way or another, these problems will be solved. I’m a problem-solver. And in the end, we will win.”

6)    A gateway to negotiating directly with the Taliban is now open. “After an effective military effort, perhaps it will be possible to have a political settlement that includes elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan, but nobody knows if or when that will ever happen.”

7)    Trump promised no-more-Mr. Nice Guy for Pakistan. “We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting. But that will have to change, and that will change immediately. No partnership can survive a country’s harboring of militants and terrorists who target U.S. servicemembers and officials. It is time for Pakistan to demonstrate its commitment to civilization, order, and to peace.”

8) There is a limit to spreading democracy to foreign countries: “We are a partner and a friend, but we will not dictate to the Afghan people how to live, or how to govern their own complex society. We are not nation-building again. We are killing terrorists. … We want them to succeed. But we will no longer use American military might to construct democracies in faraway lands, or try to rebuild other countries in our own image. Those days are now over.”




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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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