Trump announces greater involvement in Afghanistan; Taliban pledge to fight on
President Donald Trump announced on Monday night his administration’s plans to continue the engagement of the United States military in Afghanistan, a strategy meant to combat the influence of the Taliban and the ISIS affiliate in the country that will for go a formal timetable and instead rely upon “conditions on the ground” to guide U.S. activities.
“We must acknowledge the reality I’m here to talk about tonight, that nearly 16 years after the September 11 attacks, after the extraordinary sacrifice of blood and treasure, the American people are weary of war without victory,” said Trump in an address from Virginia’s Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall.
The president’s announcement follows meetings with military advisers and his national security team at Camp David on Saturday. In June, he gave Secretary of Defense James Mattis the authority to set troops levels in Afghanistan, after providing the defense chief with similar authority in Iraq and Syria.
Though Trump avoided specific reference to an increase in the number of service members in his remarks, Mattis indicated that the U.S. would heightening its involvement.
“I have directed the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to make preparations to carry out the president’s strategy,” Mattis said on Monday in a statement from Jordan, where he is traveling this week.
“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,” he added. “Together, we will assist the Afghan Security Forces to destroy the terrorist hub.”
Though the deepening of U.S. participation would amount to a reversal of the position he held prior to his bid for the presidency, Trump has also demonstrated a willingness to engage militarily in the region through the first seven months of his presidency.
“My original instinct was to pull out, and historically I like following my instincts,” said Trump Monday night. “But all of my life I heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office.”
Despite official combat operations ceasing in 2014, the U.S. continues to guide and train the Afghan military, and in April dropped a 22,000 pound “mother of all bombs” on ISIS-occupied caves there.
Currently, about 8,400 American troops are stationed in Afghanistan in an advisory capacity. Several thousand U.S. personnel are also engaged in counter terror operations against al Qaeda and ISIS-Khorasan, the group’s affiliate in Afghanistan.
The Taliban issued a statement responding to President Trumps’s remarks, saying the “the U.S. didn’t show any interest in finishing its long war in Afghanistan & they still insist on continuing fighting in Afghanistan & presence of American forces. But we want to say until one American soldier is remain in Afghanistan we will continue our struggle & fight against them.”