Trump commits to more troops in Afghanistan
WASHINGTON (92 News) – US President Donald Trump opened the door to an increase in US troops in Afghanistan as part of a retooled strategy for the region, overcoming his own doubts about America’s longest war and vowing “a fight to win.”
Trump, in a televised address at a military base near Washington, said his new approach was aimed at preventing Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for militants bent on attacking the United States.
The Republican president, who has repeatedly criticized the Afghanistan strategies of his predecessors, now inherits the same challenges, including a resurgent Taliban and a weak government in Kabul. He is laying the groundwork for greater US involvement without a clear end in sight or providing specific benchmarks for success.
In a speech with few details, Trump did not specify how many more troops would be added, gave no timeline for ending the US presence in Afghanistan, and put pressure on Pakistan, India and NATO allies to step up their own commitment.
But officials said he had signed off on Defense Secretary James Mattis’ plans to send about 4,000 more to add to the 8,400 now deployed in Afghanistan.
He warned U.S. support was not open-ended – “our support is not a blank check” – and insisted he would not engage in “nation-building,” a practice he has accused his predecessors of doing at huge cost. “We are not nation-building. We are killing terrorists,” he said.
He said the United States will continue to support the Afghan government and security forces in their fight against terrorists and prevent the reestablishment of safe havens in the country.
US President Donald Trump said mistake of withdrawal from Iraq will not be repeated in Afghanistan.
The speech came after a months-long review of US policy in which Trump frequently tangled with his top advisers on the future of US involvement in Afghanistan, where Taliban insurgents have been making territorial gains.
US military and intelligence officials are concerned that a Taliban victory over Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s government would allow al Qaeda and Islamic State’s regional affiliate to establish bases in Afghanistan from which to plot attacks against the United States and its allies.
“The unfortunate truth is that this strategy is long overdue and in the interim the Taliban has made dangerous inroads,” said senior Republican Senator John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The Republican president overcame his own scepticism about the war that began in October 2001 after the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States. He said repeatedly on the campaign trail last year that the war was too costly in lives and money.
“My original instinct was to pull out,” he said in his speech, but added he was convinced by his national security advisers to strengthen the US ability to prevent the Taliban from ousting the US-backed government in Kabul.