Trump reverses campaign stance on Afghanistan, vows U.S. will ‘fight to win’

by WorldTribune Staff, August 22, 2017

Though he said his “instinct” was to “pull out” of Afghanistan, U.S. President Donald Trump on Aug. 21 said he had concluded “the consequences of a rapid exit are both predictable and unacceptable” leaving a “vacuum” that terrorists “would instantly fill.”

As he backed away from his campaign stance of withdrawal, Trump admitted things looked different from “behind the desk in the Oval Office.”

President Donald Trump at the Fort Myer military base in Arlington, Virginia on Aug. 21: “We are not nation building again. We are killing terrorists.” / AFP

In his first formal address to the nation as commander-in-chief, Trump cleared the way for the deployment of additional troops to Afghanistan, but said it was “not a blank check,” warning he would not send the military to “construct democracies in faraway lands or create democracies in our own image.”

The speech won rave review from military commentators and elicited threats from the Taliban

While he did not offer detailed numbers, senior White House officials said Trump had already authorized Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to deploy up to 3,900 more troops to Afghanistan.

“We are not nation building again. We are killing terrorists,” the president said.

Trump also left the door open to a possible political deal with the Taliban.

“Someday, after an effective military effort, perhaps it will be possible to have a political settlement that includes elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan,” he said.

“But nobody knows if or when that will ever happen,” he added, before vowing that “America will continue its support for the Afghan government and military as they confront the Taliban in the field.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson went further, saying the U.S. would “stand ready to support peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban without preconditions.”

In response to Trump’s address, the Taliban released a statement indicating that it was undeterred, threatening to turn Afghanistan into a “graveyard” for the U.S.

“If America doesn’t withdraw its troops from Afghanistan, soon Afghanistan will become another graveyard for this superpower in the 21st century,” Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said on Aug. 22.

Mujahid added that America should think of an exit strategy “instead of continuing the war. As long as there is one U.S. soldier in our land, and they continue to impose war on us, we, with a high morale, will continue our jihad.”

Trump also indicated a new approach to dealing with 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,” he said, warning that vital aid could be cut. That will have to change and that will change immediately.”

Col. Andy Weddington, U. S. Marine Corps (retired), summed up Trump’s address in a post for the Fairfax Free Citizens:

“Our commander-in-chief just finished delivery of his warfighting plan. In short …Americans, we are going to kick the terrorists’ ass. Terrorists, we are going to kick your ass. And the ass-kicking will happen – at times and places of our choosing.

“Simple. Clear. Measurable. Achievable. Most importantly, a plan that aligns with our Principles of War.

“That’s every bit as good as President Reagan’s ‘We win. They lose’ plan. Thank you, President Trump.”

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