I am sure much will be made about President Trump‘s changing his position on Afghanistan. At least he is willing to listen to those around him. I would like to leave Afghanistan behind–I have family members who have been there and may return in the future–I wonder about the wisdom of our involvement. However, there were a few things I heard in the speech the President gave last night that I thought were very encouraging.
Below are some excerpts from the speech with commentary:
That is why shortly after my inauguration, I directed Secretary of Defense Mattis and my national security team to undertake a comprehensive review of all strategic options in Afghanistan and South Asia. 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. After many meetings, over many months, we held our final meeting last Friday at Camp David with my cabinet and generals to complete our strategy.
I arrived at three fundamental conclusion about America’s core interests in Afghanistan. First, our nation must seek an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the tremendous sacrifices that have been made, especially the sacrifices of lives. The men and women who serve our nation in combat deserve a plan for victory. They deserve the tools they need and the trust they have earned to fight and to win.
He formed a study committee and actually listened to their recommendations. That is a trait of a good leader.
President Trump noted the lessons of Iraq, where early withdrawal of troops left a vacuum filled by terrorists. President Trump also acknowledged the role of Pakistan in international terrorism. He also noted that decisions have to be made on the basis of where we are–not where we would like to be.
The President further noted:
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.
Another fundamental pillar of our new strategy is the integration of all instruments of American power — diplomatic, economic, and military — toward a successful outcome. Someday, 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.
Anyone who is acquainted with strategy in any situation understands the wisdom of not telling your opponent what your next move is going to be.
The President also showed that he has learned the lessons of Vietnam and other wars America has fought:
Finally, my administration will ensure that you, the brave defenders of the American people, will have the necessary tools and rules of engagement to make this strategy work, and work effectively, and work quickly.
I have already lifted restrictions the previous administration placed on our war fighters that prevented the secretary of defense and our commanders in the field from fully and swiftly waging battle against the enemy.
Micromanagement from Washington, D.C., does not win battles. They’re won in the field, drawing upon the judgment and expertise of wartime commanders, and front-line soldiers, acting in real time with real authority, and with a clear mission to defeat the enemy.
That’s why we will also expand authority for American armed forces to target the terrorists and criminal networks that sow violence and chaos throughout Afghanistan. These killers need to know they have nowhere to hide, that no place is beyond the reach of American might and American arms. Retribution will be fast and powerful, as we lift restrictions and expand authorities in the field. We’re already seeing dramatic results in the campaign to defeat ISIS, including the liberation of Mosul in Iraq.
War has to be fought to win. The people in the field understand what is needed and how to accomplish what needs to be accomplished. We need to let them do what they do best.
The President also understands how an alliance is supposed to work:
America will work with the Afghan government as long as we see determination and progress. However, 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.
The American people expect to see real reforms, real progress and real results. Our patience is not unlimited. We will keep our eyes open. In abiding by the oath I took on Jan. 20, I will remain steadfast in protecting American lives and American interests.
I look forward to the day when American troops are no longer needed in Afghanistan. However, I celebrate a President who understands that we need to fight this war quickly with the goal of winning. The harder we fight, the sooner we get to bring our troops home. I believe President Trump’s policies will make a victory and a return of our troops possible.