No troop pullout, threats to Pakistan in Trump speech on new Afghanistan strategy (VIDEO)
US President Donald Trump said he ordered the US military to aggressively engage the Taliban and “fight to win” in Afghanistan “killing terrorists,” signaling there will be no “rapid exit” from the 16-year war.
“Our troops will fight to win,” Trump said, and he insisted victory in Afghanistan would be clearly defined. In his assertive speech at the Army's Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, next to Arlington National Cemetery, the president said, “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.”
Trump spoke as he presented a new Afghanistan strategy that as Trump said was under consideration right after his inauguration.
No pullout, fast & powerful retribution
“My original instinct was to pull out – and, historically, I like following my instincts,” he went on. “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.”
He concluded differently, however.
“A hasty withdrawal,” Trump said, would create a “vacuum” for terrorists. He argued that “9/11, the worst terrorist attack in our history, was planned and directed from Afghanistan because that country was ruled by a government that gave comfort and shelter to terrorists.
“The consequences of a rapid exit are both predictable and unacceptable,” he added.
He reiterated the statement again, saying the US troops will remain in the country for an indefinite term.
“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,” he stressed. Trump said he “won’t talk” troop numbers from now on.
About 2,400 Americans have died in the war, the longest in US history. Trump is the third American president promising to win the war, preceded by George W. Bush, who originally sent troops to Afghanistan, and Barack Obama, who repeatedly vowed to pull them out.
Trump also said that he has lifted restrictions by the previous administration “to expand authority for American armed forces to target the terrorist and criminal networks that sow violence and chaos throughout Afghanistan.” He added that “no place is beyond the reach of American might and Americans arms. Retribution will be fast and powerful.”
This time, the American strategy will become more assertive, Trump said.
“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,” he noted.
Building the future and making a lasting peace now rests exclusively with the Afghans, Trump hinted. “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,” he said, adding, “We are not nation-building again. We are killing terrorists.”
Trump was widely expected to heed the advice of his senior advisers Monday evening and announce an increase of the number of US troops in Afghanistan, which currently stands around 8,400.
Defense Secretary James Mattis released a statement saying that he had “directed the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to make preparations to carry out the president’s strategy.”
“I will be in consultation with the Secretary General of NATO and our allies—several of which have also committed to increasing their troop numbers. Together, we will assist the Afghan Security forces to destroy the terrorist hub,” Mattis said.
Threats to Pakistan & Afghanistan
Donald Trump also slammed Pakistan for “sheltering terrorists,” despite being a key US ally receiving billions of dollars.
“Pakistan has also sheltered the same organizations that try every single day to kill our people. We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting. But that will have to change, and that will change immediately. No partnership can survive a country’s harboring of militants and terrorists who target US service-members and officials.”
The US president threatened to change America’s stance on Pakistan if it’s “continuing to harbor criminals and terrorists.”
“It is time for Pakistan to demonstrate its commitment to civilization, order, and to peace. 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,” Trump said.
Speaking of the role played by the Afghan government in restring peace in the country, Trump said US patience is running out as “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.”
‘Jihad will go on’
The Taliban has condemned Trump's new strategy on Afghanistan.
“Instead of continuing of war in Afghanistan, Americans should have thought about withdrawing their soldiers from Afghanistan,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said hours after Trump's speech.
He added that “as long as there is even one American soldier in our country,” the Islamist insurgents would “continue jihad,” according to Reuters.
He also said that the Taliban will come out with a more detailed response in the future. Last week the Taliban released a 1,600-word open letter to the president warning him against a troop surge and advising that he withdraw the troops altogether.
“Previous experiences have shown that sending more troops to Afghanistan will not result in anything other than further destruction of American military and economical might,” the Taliban said, adding that they are not ready for peace talks until the US and NATO give a timeline for troop withdrawal.
Russia, a major security provider in Central Asia, has recently voiced criticism over the US involvement in Afghanistan.
“The American campaign in Afghanistan has failed. Afghanistan risks becoming a global incubator of international terrorism. It has, in fact, already partially grown to become it,” Zamir Kabulov, who is also the Russian Foreign Ministry's director of the Second Asian Department in Afghanistan, told Izvestia daily in mid-August.