NEWS

Donald Trump's Address To The Nation Leaves Everyone Scratching Their Heads

'Trump announces that he will not announce our plans in Afghanistan.'

22/08/2017 03:40 | Updated 22 August 2017

President Trump used his first official Address to the Nation on Monday night to announce his administration’s grand strategy for the ongoing war in Afghanistan.

But aside from saying it will continue and the US will win “in the end”, the speech was severely lacking in specifics.

Speaking from Fort Myer, Virginia, Trump insisted the US would not offer “a blank check” after 16 years of war, but did not say whether or when more troops would be sent.

He said: “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.”

As for what those conditions might be, Trump did not expand but he did say that US military action in Afghanistan and the South Asia region is now not about nation building but “killing terrorists”. 

Aside from that much of the speech echoed previous statements from US officials and former presidents made since the US invaded Afghanistan in 2001 to destroy the Taliban - a goal yet to be achieved and now more complex than ever with the added threat of the Islamic State and continuing instability in neighbouring Pakistan.

He said victory in Afghanistan will mean “attacking our enemies”, “obliterating” the Islamic State group, crushing al-Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking over the country, and stopping terror attacks against Americans.

During one section Trump appeared to suggest previous presidents had not used all of the tools at their disposal.

He said: “Another fundamental pillar of our new strategy is the integration of all instruments of American power: diplomatic, economic, and military, toward a successful outcome.”

But Trump may have already made his life difficult in this regard having previously eliminated the position of Special Representative for Afghanistan/Pakistan which played a key role in diplomacy in the region.

And there’s also the small matter of this...

Trump did have strong words for Pakistan, saying the US “can no longer be silent” about terrorist safe havens in Pakistan which often gives sanctuary to “agents of chaos, violence and terror”.

This, six years after President Obama sent a special forces team into the country to kill Osama Bin Laden.

Perhaps the most surprising part of the speech came right at the beginning when the President admitted that he had been wrong about Afghanistan in the past.

He said last night: “My original instinct was to pull out, and historically I like following my instincts.

“But all my life, I have heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the oval office. In other words, when you are president of the United States. 

“So I studied Afghanistan in great detail and from every conceivable angle.”

Filling in the gaps after the speech, Defence Secretary, Jim Mattis, signalled the US will increase troop numbers in Afghanistan as part of the President’s new war strategy.

Mattis says he has directed the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to prepare to carry out President Donald Trump’s plans but again did not specify numbers, reports the Associated Press.

Trump’s speech concluded a months-long internal debate within his administration over whether to pull back from the Afghanistan conflict, as he and a few advisers were inclined to do, or to embroil the country further in a war that has eluded American solutions for the past 16 years.

Several times, officials predicted he was nearing a decision to adopt his commanders’ recommendations, only to see the final judgment delayed.

The Pentagon has argued the US must stay engaged to ensure terrorists can’t again use the territory to threaten America.

Afghan military commanders have agreed, making clear they want and expect continued U.S. military help. But elected officials in the U.S. have been mixed, with many advocating against sending more troops.

As a candidate, Trump campaigned on a vow to start winning wars. Exiting now, with the Taliban resurgent, would be impossible to sell as victory.

“I think there’s a relative certainty that the Afghan government would eventually fall,” said Mark Jacobson, an Army veteran and NATO’s former deputy representative in Kabul.

And while Trump has pledged to put “America First,” keeping US interests above any others, his national security advisers have warned that the Afghan forces are still far too weak to succeed without help.

That is especially important as the Taliban advance and a squeezed Islamic State group looks for new havens beyond Syria and Iraq. Even now, Afghan’s government controls just half the country.

As officers advocated for the troop increase, the Pentagon did not claim it would end the conflict. But military officials maintained it could help stabilize the Afghan government and break a stalemate with the Taliban.

The setting for Monday night’s speech, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, sits alongside Arlington National Cemetery, the final resting place for many Americans who have died in the war.

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