The United States on Tuesday ruled out a hasty withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan with President Donald Trump declaring the country won’t repeat the “mistake” it had made in Iraq.
In a prime-time address to unveil his new Afghanistan strategy, Trump said the US would shift away from a “time-based” approach, instead linking its assistance to results and to cooperation from the beleaguered Afghan government, Pakistan and others.
Trump said his original instinct was to pull out but after “studying Afghanistan in great detail and from every conceivable angle” and after many meetings, over many months with his Cabinet and generals, he had arrived at three “fundamental conclusions about America’s core interests in Afghanistan.”
These include 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 they need, and the trust they have earned, to fight and to win.”
Second, the consequences of a rapid exit were both predictable and unacceptable, Trump said, adding a hasty withdrawal would create a “vacuum that terrorists, including ISIS and al Qaeda, would instantly fill, just as happened before September 11.”
He said in 2011 America “hastily and mistakenly withdrew from Iraq.”
“ As a result, our hard-won 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 for ISIS to spread, to grow, recruit, and launch attacks. We cannot repeat in Afghanistan the mistake our leaders made in Iraq.”
“Third and finally, I concluded that the security threats we face in Afghanistan and the broader region 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.”
“We will not talk about numbers of troops or our plans for further military activities,” Trump said as he announced his South Asia policy in front of about 2,000 people from all five services and top officials of his administration.
Trump’s definition of a win notably did not include defeating the Taliban as he conceded that any solution that brings peace to Afghanistan may well involve the Taliban’s participation.
“Someday, after an effective military effort, perhaps it will be possible to have a political settlement that includes elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan,” Trump said.