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Afghanistan: right or wrong?

First, President Trump's twenty-minute speech on Monday, from Ft Myer, Virginia, regarding the troop expansion to Afghanistan.

 

The full transcript is below, with my comments in red.

Vice President Pence, Secretary of State Tillerson, members of the cabinet, General Dunford, Deputy Secretary and Colonel Duggan. Most especially thank you to the members of the U.S. military at home and abroad. We send our thoughts and prayers to the families of our brave sailors who were injured and lost after a tragic collision at sea as well as to those conducting the search and recovery efforts. I am here tonight to lay out our plan going forward in Afghanistan and South Asia. 

But before I provide the details of our new strategy, I want to say a few words to the service members here with us tonight, to those watching from their posts and to all Americans listening at home.

Since the founding of our Republic our country has produced a special class of heroes whose selflessness, courage and resolve is unmatched in human history. American patriots of every generation have given their last breath on the battlefield for our nation and for our freedom. Through their lives and though their lives were cut short, in their deeds they achieved total immortality. 

By following their heroic example of those who fought for their republic, we can find the inspiration our country needs to unify, to heal, and to remain one nation under god. The men and women of our military operate as one team with one shared mission and one shared sense of purpose. 

They transcend every line of race, ethnicity, creed and color to serve together and sacrifice together in absolutely perfect cohesion. That is because all service members are brothers and sisters. They're all part of the same family. It's called the American family - they take the same oath, fight for the same flag and live according to the same law. They're bound together by common purpose, mutual trust and selfless devotion to our nation and to each other

The soldier understands what we as a nation too often forget. That a wound inflicted upon a single member of our community is a wound inflicted upon us all. When one part of America hurts, we all hurt. And when one citizen suffers an injustice, we all suffer together. Loyalty to our nation demands loyalty to one another. Love for our nation demands love for all of its people. When we open our hearts to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice, no place for bigotry, no tolerance for hate.

Sound familiar? That's from President Trump's inaugural speech as well. Roughly the seventh time that President Trump has publicly denounced white supremacists, bigotry and racism in a week.

The young men and women we send to fight our wars abroad deserve to return to a country that is not at war with itself at home. We cannot be a force for peace in the world if we're not at peace with each other. As we send our bravest to defeat our enemies overseas -- and we will always win -- let us find the courage to heal our divisions within. Let us make a simple promise to those we ask to fight in our name, that when they return home from battle, they will find a country that has renewed the sacred bonds of love and loyalty that unite us together as one.

Thank God the era of "leading from behind" and "strategic patience" is over. Only abject morons use phrases like that. There are no such things.

Thanks to the vigilance and skill of the American military and of our many allies throughout the world, horrors on the scale of Sept. 11th — nobody can ever forget that — have not been repeated on our shores and we must acknowledge the reality I am here to talk about tonight, that nearly 16 years after the Sept. 11th attacks, after the extraordinary sacrifice of blood and treasure, the American people are weary of war without victory.

Nowhere is this more evident than the war in Afghanistan. The longest war in American history — 17 years. I share the American people's frustration. I also share their frustration over a foreign policy that has spent too much time, energy and most importantly lives trying to rebuild countries in our own image instead of pursuing our security interests above all other considerations.

Correct. Which is why I vehemently disagreed with President Bush staying behind in Iraq to "nation build." We should have gone in, inflicted maximal damage, killed many Iraqi soldiers, laid waste to its military elements, dusted off our hands and left, taking all our toys with us.

That is why shortly after my inauguration, I directed Secretary of Defense Mattis and my national security team to undertake a comprehensive view of all strategic options in Afghanistan and all of South Asia. 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. 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 conclusions about America's core interests in Afghanistan.

A lesson Barack Hussein Obama learned early when stepping into office, as in his decision not to immediately close Gitmo though he promised it would be one of the first events occurring in his presidency. Things change in that big seat. Any thinking human being knows this is true.

First, our nation must seek an honorable and enduring outcome, worthy of the tremendous sacrifices that have been made, especially the sacrifices of lives. The men and women who serve our nation in combat, deserve a plan for victory. They deserve the tools that they need and the trust they have earned to fight and to win.

Correct. The moment you unilaterally pull out completely, people rightly ask: were all previous American lives lost in Afghanistan for naught?

Second, the consequences of a rapid exit are both predictable and unacceptable. 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.

But not the only one.

A hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum that terrorists including ISIS and Al-Qaeda would instantly fill, just as happened before September 11th and as we know in 2011 when America hastily and mistakenly withdrew from Iraq. As a result, our hard-fought gains slipped back into the hands of terrorist enemies. Our soldiers watched as cities they had fought for and bled to liberate and won were occupied by a terrorist group called ISIS. The vacuum we created by leaving too soon gave safe haven to ISIS to spread to grow, recruit and launch attacks. We cannot repeat in Afghanistan the mistake our leaders made in Iraq.

The problem is, US administrators did not follow the BZ Iraqi Policy. Fewer American lives would have been lost and the false promise of the "Democratization" of another country would not have been made.

Third, and finally, I concluded that the security threats we face in Afghanistan and the broader regions are immense. Today, 20 U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organizations are active in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The highest concentration in any region, anywhere in the world. For its part, Pakistan often gives safe haven to agents of chaos, violence, and terror. The threat is even worse because Pakistan and India are two nuclear-armed states whose tense relations threaten to spiral into conflict — and that could happen.

Now we're beginning to touch on the true point of the speech, in my opinion. Pakistan -- which directly borders Afghanistan and provides aid and comfort to terrorist elements.

No one denies that we have inherited a challenging and troubling situation in Afghanistan and South Asia. But we do not have the luxury of going back in time and making different or better decisions. When I became president, I was given a bad and very complex hand but I fully knew what I was getting into - big and intricate problems. But, one way or another these problems will be solved - I am a problem solver. And in the end, we will win. We must address the reality of the world as it exists right now.

Alright. Being positive is good. Re-stating the issue is good with an aim towards its solution.

The threats we face and the confronting of all of the problems of today and extremely predictable consequences of a hasty withdrawal. We need look no further than last week's vicious, vile attack in Barcelona to understand that terror groups will stop at nothing to commit the mass murder of innocent men, women, and children. You saw it for yourself. Horrible.

But wait, there's more. The explosions that occurred were not immediately linked but in fact they were. They were part of a larger plot to kill hundreds more in a larger venue but the bomb-makers, well, frakked up. Plan B? A van.

As I outlined in my speech in Saudi Arabia, three months ago, America and its partners are committed to stripping terrorists of their territory, cutting off their funding, and exposing the false allure of their evil ideology.

Too bad Barack Hussein Obama didn't have that goal. Instead, he thought it wise to front-load a losing deal for America by literally shipping billions of dollars on huge pallets on a covert C-117 to Iran in the dead of night like a bad Robert Ludlum novel.

Terrorists who slaughter innocent people will find no glory in this life or the next. They are nothing but thugs and criminals and predators, and that is right, losers. Working alongside our allies, we will break their will, dry up their recruitment, keep them from crossing our borders, and yes, we will defeat them and we will defeat them handily.

Keep them from crossing our borders? That fight internally is every bit as serious a fight as the one overseas. I am not overstating this threat.

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.

Uh-oh. This is called a clue. As Mr Obama would have said: "Pokky-stahn."

But to prosecute this war, we will learn from history. As a result of our comprehensive review, American strategy in Afghanistan and South Asia will change dramatically in the following ways: A core pillar of our new strategy is a shift from a time-based approach to one based on conditions. I've said it many times how counterproductive it is for the United States to announce in advance the dates we intend to begin or end military options.

Oh my. Are we going to begin some kind of overall common sense approach to the application of the American military? As in: our tactical planning is our own and belongs to no one else? Not the American Media Maggots? Not our enemies? Unlike Barack Hussein Obama's directives?

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. 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.

This is long overdue. Long, long overdue. Example: Obama declaring we'll be leaving Iraq by the end of 2011. Hello? Earth to terror planners? You listening?

Another fundamental pillar of our new strategy is the integration of all instruments of American power -- diplomatic, economic and military -- toward a successful outcome. Some day, after an effective military effort, perhaps it will be possible to have a political settlement that includes elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Wait. Trump didn't pronounce it "Tolly-bahn." Damn him.

But nobody knows if or when that will ever happen. America will continue its support for the Afghan government and the Afghan military as they confront the Taliban in the field. 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 not nation-building again. We are killing terrorists.

Good words. Words we want to hear. No more "nation building." That's what I want to hear. But the devil is not only in the details but the actual execution.

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.

Good to hear.

The next pillar of our new strategy is to change the approach and how to deal with Pakistan. 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.

Roll with it.  .  .

In the past, Pakistan has been a valued partner. Our militaries have worked together against common enemies. The Pakistani people have suffered greatly under terrorism and extremism. We recognize those contributions and those sacrifices.

Roll with it.  .  .

But 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 we are fighting. But that will have to change, and that will have to change immediately. No partnership can survive a country's harboring of militants and terrorists who target U.S. service members and officials. It is time for Pakistan to demonstrate its commitment to civilization, order, and to peace.

This is both the nugget and the bullet buried deep within his speech, in my opinion.

Another critical part of the South Asia strategy for America is to further develop its strategic partnership with India, 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 from trade with the United States, and we want them to help us more with Afghanistan especially in the area of economic assistance and development.

A bone thrown to India in an effort to assist us more closely in reigning in Pokky-stahn.

We are committed to pursuing our shared objectives of securing peace and stability in South Asia, and the broader Indo-Pacific region. Finally 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, and work effectively, and work quickly. I have already lifted restrictions the previous administration placed on our warfighters that prevented the Secretary of Defense and our commanders in the field from fully and swiftly waging battle against the enemy.

Wait wait wait wait. Oppressive ROEs being lifted? That in and of itself is a massive and positive step forward away from, say, LBJ's micromanagement of Vietnam, Nixon's, Reagan's, Bush's and, of course, Obama's constricted throttling of our military.

Micromanagement from Washington, DC does not win battles. They are won in the field drawing upon the judgment and expertise of wartime commanders and front line soldiers acting in real time - with real authority - and with a clear mission to defeat the enemy.

This is a huge turn of events. Proving again that Trump is not a politician. Good or bad. This is part of the "good" side. That's why we will also expand authority for American armed forces to target the terrorist and criminal networks that sow violence and chaos throughout Afghanistan. These killers need to know they have nowhere to hide - that no place is beyond the reach of American might and American arms.

Trump trusts his generals. He is pushing power down and away from the Oval Orifice.

Retribution will be fast and powerful as we lift restrictions and expand authorities in the field we are already seeing dramatic results in the campaign to defeat ISIS including the liberation of Mosul in Iraq. Since my inauguration we have achieved record breaking success in that regard. We will also maximize sanctions and other financial and law enforcement actions against these networks, to eliminate their ability to export terror. When America commits its warriors to battle, we must ensure they have every weapon to apply swift decisive and overwhelming force.

Let me state this now. I firmly believe that President Donald Trump truly cares about his military warriors and his law enforcement professionals at home, unlike the previous president -- who possessed nothing but disdain for them and their backgrounds. They weren't "his people."

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. We will ask our NATO allies and global partners to support our new strategy with additional troop and funding increases in line with our own. We are confident they will.

Uh-oh. Objectives. Are these real objectives or are they fanciful objectives? Can they truly be obtained?

Since taking office I have made clear that our allies and partners must contribute much more money to our collective defense. And they have done so.

Angela Merkel is spinning in her office right about now, enamel flecking off her perfect capped teeth. Pass me the amalgam.

In this struggle, the heaviest burden will continue to be borne by the good people of Afghanistan and their courageous armed forces. As the Prime Minister of Afghanistan has promised, we are going to participate in economic development to help defray the cost of this war to us.

Oh no. You mean that, unlike Obama, any and every "deal" isn't front-loaded against the United States from the beginning? How oppressive and judgmental of President Trump. 

Afghanistan is fighting to defend their country against the same enemies who threaten us. The stronger the Afghan security forces become the less we will have to do. Afghans will secure and build their own nation, and define their own future. We want them to succeed. But we will no longer use American military might to construct democracies in faraway lands, or try to rebuild other countries in our own image — those days are now over. 


When President Bush said that all people and all nations wish to be free and to have their own democracies, well, no they don't. Witness Islam and its adherents. He was wrong then and he is wrong now because, frankly, we think we understand the minds of others but we sometimes do not. To our own detriment.

Instead, we will work with allies and partners to protect our shared interests. We are not asking others to change their way of life, but to pursue common goals that allow our children to live better and safer lives. This principled realism will guide our decisions moving forward. Military power alone will not bring peace to Afghanistan or stop the terrorist threat arising in that country.

True. Just consult the Russians.

But strategically applied force aims to create the conditions for a political process to achieve a lasting peace - 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, we will keep our eyes wide open. In abiding by the oath I took on January 20th , I will remain steadfast and protect American lives and American interests. In this effort we will make common cause with any nation that chooses to fight alongside us against this global threat.

I believe that is Trump's goal. Say what you will about him, he is nothing but pro-American. A stance America wants from her president.

Terrorists: take heed. America will never let up until you are dealt a lasting defeat. Under my administration many billions of dollars more is being spent on our military, and this includes vast amounts being spent on our nuclear arsenal and missile defense.

A small note to North Korea. But also to China and Russia. In every generation we have faced down evil. And we have always prevailed. We prevailed because we know who we are and what we are fighting for.

 

Not far from where we are gathered tonight, hundreds of thousands of America's greatest patriots lay to rest at Arlington. National. Cemetery. There is more courage, sacrifice and love in those hallowed grounds than in any other spot in the face of the earth. Many of those who have fought and died in Afghanistan, enlisted in the months after September 11, 2001.



They volunteered for a simple reason, they loved America and they were determined to protect her. Now we must secure the cause for which they gave their lives. We must unite to defend America from its enemies abroad. 

We must restore the bonds of loyalty among our citizens at home and we must achieve an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the enormous price that so many have paid. Our actions, and in the months to come, all of them will honor the sacrifice of every fallen hero. 

Every family who lost a loved one. And every wounded warrior who shed their blood in defense of our great nation. With our resolve we will ensure that your service and your families, will bring about the defeat of our enemies and the arrival of peace. 

We will push onward to victory with power in our hearts, courage in our souls, and everlasting pride in each and every one of you. Thank you. May God bless our military, and may God bless the united states of America. Thank you very much. Thank you.

In an interesting interview with Sean Hannity, former US Ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, provided his thoughts about the speech.

 

Was this thoughtful reconsideration, or a possible betrayal of conservative votes?

Do people who thought Trump promoted a foreign policy of restraint feel abandoned?

Has the mission in Afghanistan "lost its purpose"?

Is it an endless war?

Is this Citizen Trump vs President Trump?

Is this the result of a perspective that has changed since installation in the Oval Office which would include access to more information?

For me, the bottom line is this: I think most everyone read his speech wrong.

Is this only about Afghanistan, or is it more about sending a message to Pakistan?

Not A. But B.

BZ


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