With no new numbers on troop deployment and few specifics on strategy, a tough-talking President Trump vowed Monday to win the war in Afghanistan — doing an about-face on a military operation he opposed for years.
In a prime-time speech at Fort Myer, Va., marking his first major national security address, Trump promised to obliterate ISIS, crush Al Qaeda and stop mass terror attacks against America “before they emerge.”
But the closest the President came to any actual details on his much-anticipated plan on how to address America’s longest war was his call for a shift from a time-based approach to one based on conditions.
“Afghanistan is fighting to defend and secure their country against the same enemies who threaten us,” Trump said.
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“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. 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. Instead, we will work with allies and partners to protect our shared interests.”
Trump punctuated his point of putting America first.
“We are not nation-building again,” he said. “We are killing terrorists.”
He would not say how he would achieve the victory, and he defended his vague “principled realism” approach.
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“America’s enemies must never know our plans, or believe they can wait us out,” Trump said. “I will not say when we are going to attack, but attack we will.”
By announcing America’s commitment to the war, Trump was in effect asking the nation to ignore his own rhetoric on the issue, including his own criticism of “very stupid leaders” who kept the battle going.
“My original instinct was to pull out, and historically, I like following my instincts,” Trump said. “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.”
Trump, who on the campaign trail mercilessly attacked any notion of carrying on the conflict, insisted that the fight would be more effective under his leadership, and vowed that the nation’s war on terror would end in victory.
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Multiple reports said Trump had signed off on a strategy to increase the number of troops there by 4,000 — but he declined to announce any specific increase in the number of troops.
Trump also said he would not establish any timeline for victory, which he said would be determined by Afghanistan meeting certain conditions. He also called on Pakistan and India to be more involved in bringing the conflict to an end.
“The American people are weary of war without victory,” Trump said. “Nowhere is this more evident than with the war in Afghanistan. The longest war in American history — 17 years. I share the American people’s frustration.”
Trump’s announcement drew swift criticism from critics who accused him of flip-flopping on a major foreign policy position.
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Though he inherited the war, as did former President Barack Obama before him, Trump’s opponents and supporters alike were looking to see how far he would go to own the conflict.
“I fully knew what I was getting into,” Trump said. “Big and intricate problems. But one way or another, these problems will be solved. I’m a problem solver. And in the end, we will win.”
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