Appearing at Fort Myer in Arlington, Virginia, on Monday evening, the president announced ... something. A strategy, allegedly, that will “win” our 16-year-old war in Afghanistan. Trump being Trump, he provided few details about his big beautiful strategy, and relied instead on bluster and venom:
Our troops will fight to win. 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.
He didn’t tell his audience how many troops he planned to send to Afghanistan, though reports put the figure at around 4,000. He said the escalation was contingent on the Afghan government rooting out corruption and creating its own stable army, mimicking demands by his predecessors that were never met. He offered no benchmarks for success, and left the entire operation open-ended, despite claiming that Afghanistan would not receive a “blank check.”
He singled out Pakistan for criticism, saying, “We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting.” It is certainly true that Pakistan is home to a number of terrorist groups, but it is also true that Pakistan has proven, over the last 16 years, that it has no intention of ever changing its strategy of using such groups as proxy forces. The main question is whether Trump’s bellicosity and general diplomatic incompetence will destabilize the already-fraught relationship between India and Pakistan. This is vintage Trump: Playground taunts are the only diplomacy he understands.
From all appearances, it looks like he got rolled by his pet generals, who have been portrayed as a moderating force on his rhetoric and policy, but who have very little imagination when it comes to resolving international conflicts—their solution is almost always more troops, which is why Trump is the third president in 16 years to send more troops to Afghanistan. At least we now know that Trump will not end our forever war. Despite his previous statements about pulling out of Afghanistan, we never should have expected him to, since it would have taken courage and guile to stand up to the military, two qualities Trump does not possess.