President Donald Trump announced late Monday evening changes to the U.S. strategy in the Afghanistan, saying America must maintain a military presence in the country as the consequences of a quick exit would be “predictable and unacceptable.”
“A hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum that terrorists—including ISIS and Al Qaeda—would instantly fill, just as happened before Sept. 11,” Trump said in a prime-time address before a group of U.S. service members at Fort Myer in Arlington, Va.
The president said America’s interests in the Middle Eastern countries of Afghanistan and Pakistan are to prevent the “re-emergence of safe-havens,” which allow terrorists to thrive and threaten the U.S., and to stop nuclear weapons and materials from reaching terrorists. Though he did not talk about number of additional troops that would be deployed to the region, Fox News reported earlier in the day that Trump approved sending 4,000 more troops to Afghanistan. Currently, the U.S. has about 8,400 troops in the area.
Following what he called a “comprehensive review” with his cabinet and generals at Camp David last week, Trump announced the new strategy in the Middle East would rest upon multiple “pillars,” including a transition from a “time-based approach to one based on conditions” and a shift in policy regarding Pakistan.
“We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations, the Taliban, and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond,” Trump said. “Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan. It has much to lose by continuing to harbor terrorists.”
Additionally, Trump said the U.S. would focus on working with allies instead of using the military to rebuild nations with an American “image,” and allow Afghans to secure and rebuild their country.
“America will work with the Afghan government as long as we see determination and progress,” Trump said. “However, our commitment is not unlimited, and our support is not a blank check. The American people expect to see real reforms and real results.”
Despite the new strategy in Afghanistan, Trump, who has stepped up military action in the country since taking office, has not always been in favor of keeping U.S. forces in the region. He admitted in his speech Monday night that his “original instinct was to pull out,” and tweeted in 2013—then a private citizen—against keeping troops in the war-torn country.
Do not allow our very stupid leaders to sign a deal that keeps us in Afghanistan through 2024-with all costs by U.S.A. MAKE AMERICA GREAT!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 21, 2013
Trump’s message on Monday, however, was clear when it came to what he hopes to accomplish by maintaining a U.S. military presence in the Middle East.
“Our troops will fight to win,” he said. “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.”