On Monday, President Donald J. Trump addressed the Nation from Fort Myer, Virginia, to announce his strategy in Afghanistan and South Asia.
Shortly after President Trump’s inauguration, he directed Secretary of Defense Mattis and the national security team to undertake a comprehensive review of all strategic options in Afghanistan and South Asia. After many meetings over the last several months, the President approved this strategy alongside his team at Camp David last week.
The President has three fundamental conclusions about America’s core interests in Afghanistan:
First, our Nation must seek an outcome worthy of the tremendous sacrifices that have been made. The men and women who serve our Nation in combat deserve a plan for victory, the tools they need, and the trust they have earned to fight and to win.
Second, the consequences of a rapid exit are both predictable and unacceptable. A hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum that terrorists, including ISIS and al Qaeda, would instantly fill, just as what happened before September 11th and in 2011, when America hastily and mistakenly withdrew from Iraq. We cannot repeat in Afghanistan the mistake our leaders made in Iraq.
Third, the security threats in Afghanistan and the broader region are immense. There are 20 U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organizations currently active in Afghanistan and Pakistan - the highest concentration in any region in the world.
“In Afghanistan and Pakistan, America’s interests are clear: We must stop the resurgence of safe havens that enable terrorists to threaten America, and we must prevent nuclear weapons and materials from coming into the hands of terrorists and being used against us, or anywhere in the world for that matter,” said the President.
In the President’s new strategy, we will shift from a time-based approach to one based on conditions. It is counterproductive for the United States to announce in advance the dates we intend to begin, or end, military options. “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,” stated President Trump.
All instruments of American power -- diplomatic, economic, and military – must be integrated toward a successful outcome. Ultimately, it is up to the people of Afghanistan to take ownership of their future, to govern their society, and to achieve an everlasting peace. We are a partner and a friend, but we will not dictate to the Afghan people how to live, or how to govern their own complex society.
We will also change the approach with Pakistan. President Trump stated, “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. Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan. It has much to lose by continuing to harbor criminals and terrorists.”
Another critical part of President Trump’s South Asia strategy is for America to further develop its strategic partnership with India. India is the world’s largest democracy and a key security and economic partner of the United States. We appreciate India’s important contributions to stability in Afghanistan, but India makes billions of dollars in trade with the United States, and we want them to help us more with Afghanistan, especially in the area of economic assistance and development. We are committed to pursuing our shared objectives for peace and security in South Asia and the broader Indo-Pacific region.
Finally, the Trump Administration will ensure that the brave defenders of the American people will have the necessary tools and rules of engagement to make this new strategy work. President Trump has already lifted restrictions the previous administration implemented that prevented the Secretary of Defense and commanders in the field from fully and swiftly waging battle against the enemy. “Micromanagement from Washington, D.C. does not win battles. They are won in the field drawing upon the judgment and expertise of wartime commanders and frontline soldiers acting in real time, with real authority, and with a clear mission to defeat the enemy,” said the President.
“Our troops will fight to win. We 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 Afghanistan, and stopping mass terror attacks against America before they emerge.”
“In abiding by the oath I took on January 20th, I will remain steadfast in protecting American lives and American interests. In this effort, we will make common cause with any nation that chooses to stand and fight alongside us against this global threat. Terrorists take heed: America will never let up until you are dealt a lasting defeat.”