Trump Announces Plans To Stay In Afghanistan, Shift To ‘Conditions’ Based Withdrawal

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Alex Pfeiffer White House Correspondent
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President Donald Trump addressed the nation Monday night about America’s future in Afghanistan and said that the U.S. will remain in there indefinitely until conditions on the ground change.

The U.S. has been engaged in conflict in Afghanistan ever since 9/11, and just over 2,400 American troops have died in the conflict. Trump has long criticized the war and said Monday night at Fort Myer, Va., that his initial instinct was to “pull out.”

The president said that sitting in the Oval Office changed his mindset, and he looked to the advice of his national security advisers. “After many meetings, over many months, we held our final meeting last Friday at Camp David, with my cabinet and generals, to complete our strategy. I arrived at three fundamental conclusions about America’s core interests in Afghanistan,” Trump said.

These three conclusions were that the U.S. “must seek an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the tremendous sacrifices that have been made,” a quick withdrawal would create a “vacuum that terrorists – including ISIS and Al Qaeda – would instantly fill,” and that security threats in Afghanistan and South Asia “are immense.”

He claimed Pakistan gives safe haven to terrorists, which does not help with the situation in Afghanistan. Trump said he inherited a bad situation, but didn’t have the “luxury” of going back in time.

“As a result of our comprehensive review, American strategy in Afghanistan and South Asia will change dramatically in the following ways,” Trump said. “A core pillar of our new strategy is a shift from a time-based approach to one based on conditions.  I’ve said many times how counterproductive it is for the United States to announce in advance the dates we intend to begin, or end, military operations.  We will not talk about numbers of troops or our plans for further military activities.”

Trump did not specify the conditions for withdrawal. He did say the U.S. hopes to establish a political situation that brings “lasting peace” in Afghanistan, but also at one point doubted that the Taliban could ever participate in the political process.

As for troop deployments, there are currently roughly 8,400 servicemembers in Afghanistan and it was widely reported that the president would okay the deployment of 4,000 additional troops. Although, he did not mention this figure during his address.

While his speech called for continued American involvement, the president as always decried nation-building. “We will no longer use American military might to construct democracies or rebuild countries in America’s image,” Trump said.

He framed the nation’s involvement in Afghanistan more so as a necessity to pay back past sacrifices made by soldiers.

“One way or another these problems will be solved. I’m a problem solver and in the end, we will win,” Trump said.