On Monday, U.S. President Donald Trump outlined a new plan for strategy in Afghanistan. While Trump urged a “speedy withdrawal” from Afghanistan in 2013, he has now decided to further commit to the war that is approaching 16 years in its duration, according to CNBC.
There are currently around 8,400 troops acknowledged by the Pentagon as stationed in Afghanistan, but with overlap between transitioning and temporary units, the actual number falls between 11,000 and 12,000 on any given day, according to NBC News. While Trump did not specify the number of additional troops that will be sent to Afghanistan, The Washington Post reported that congressional officials said about 4,000 will be added.
According to CNBC, Trump’s strategy focuses on counter-terrorism and depends heavily on the addition of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Trump’s Monday speech referenced a strategy of pressuring Pakistan to stop terrorists from finding refuge within the country’s boarders. The Washington Post also reported that Trump wants India to provide more economic and developmental support.
Another aspect of the plan is simply to deploy more troops to train Afghan soldiers, sending the message to the Taliban that battle would be futile, according to The New York Times.
While Trump recognized these aims are inconsistent with his earlier and campaign rhetoric, he said American security will be prioritized. He maintained that he is staying consistent with the “America first” approach of his administration, according to The Washington Post, calling the approach “principled realism.”
Meanwhile, according to CNBC, ridding Afghanistan of the Taliban and al Qaeda and ISIS militants remains paramount, as the operations of the terrorist groups in the country pose threats both throughout the region and for the U.S.
Although the announcement occurred on Monday, The New York Times reported that the discussion of increasing troops had been ongoing for months. The decision of Trump’s new strategy emerged after a deliberation and meeting with his war cabinet at Camp David, after which he said that “a hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum for terrorists, including ISIS and al Qaeda,” according to The New York Times.
Afghanistan’s Ambassador to the U.S, Hamdullah Mohib, appreciated Trump’s new plan, reportedly saying that it “takes into account our country’s needs and constraints. We did not want it to be about troop numbers or timelines, but to conditions on the ground,” according to The Washington Post. Mohib views Trump’s plan as a method of using U.S. military power to realize shared goals.
While this strategy certainly has risks, U.S. military and intelligence officials have asserted that doing nothing in Afghanistan is not an option. Trump’s plan is not hugely different from Barack Obama’s, but The New York Times reported that Trump does not intend to invest in nation-building, but in the killing of terrorists.
The tone of Trump’s message remains aggressive as he promises looser restrictions for U.S. soldiers, granting the ability to hunt down terrorists. While some Afghanistan experts are in favour of this new strategy, others believe that it will not work, For instance, according to The New York Times, some “were critical of the idea that a political settlement could come after the Taliban and other militants had been beaten back on the battlefield.”