Trump Addresses Nation On New Afghanistan Strategy

Monday, August 21st 2017, 9:40 pm

By: News 9

President Trump addressed the nation Monday night from Fort Myer in Arlington, Virginia, about the path forward for U.S. engagement in Afghanistan, which is where America has been fighting its longest-running war.

President George W. Bush first sent U.S. troops to Afghanistan to target al Qaeda after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. 

In Afghanistan, 8,400 U.S. troops remain, down from a high of 100,000 during President Obama's first term.

The administration had been exploring possible options for a new strategy for months, but the decision was delayed over concerns that the U.S.-led coalition is not winning the fight against the Taliban, al Qaeda and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). 

In June, CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reported that the Pentagon had been making plans to send additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan, with the number expected to be between 3,000 and 5,000 troops. 

The Trump administration had also been considering a plan proposed by Blackwater founder Erik Prince to privatize a large portion of the U.S. effort in Afghanistan in which 5,000 private military contractors would replace U.S. troops that assist the Afghan army.

The president has been pulled in two directions. The U.S. military has pushed for more Special Operations fighters, fewer battlefield restrictions and no timetable for withdrawal. On the other side, ousted chief White House strategist Steve Bannon pushed for a complete U.S. pullout, arguing that Afghanistan was no longer a vital U.S. interest. As far back as 2011, Mr. Trump has argued that Afghanistan has been a waste of tax dollars.

Ahead of Mr. Trump's forthcoming remarks, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke over the phone with Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, India's Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, and Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani. According to a read-out of the calls, the topic of discussion was "how the United States would like to work with each country to stabilize South Asia through a new, integrated regional strategy."

CBS News' Margaret Brennan reported that prior to Mr. Trump's speech, Vice President Mike Pence was to speak with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, at Mr. Trump's request.  

Mr. Trump's address comes after he's spent two weeks at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, and experiencing the most tumultuous week in his presidency last week after the way he handled the terror attack and violence ignited by white supremacists in Charlottesville

CBS News' Major Garrett contributed to this report. 

Live updates below.

Trump says he arrived at three conclusions in evaluating U.S. strategy in Afghanistan

  • The president said that the U.S. must seek an "honorable and enduring outcome" in Afghanistan because he said servicemembers "deserve a plan for victory." 
  • Mr. Trump said that the consequences of a rapid exit are "predictable and unacceptable." He said that it would create a "vacuum" that terrorists like al Qaeda and ISIS would instantly fill. He criticized the Obama administration for the 2011 decision to "hastily" and "mistakenly" withdraw from Iraq. 
  • The president said that he concluded that the security threat the U.S. faces in Afghanistan is "immense." He said there are 20 designated foreign terrorist organizations in Afghanistan and Pakistan. 

Trump says his original instinct was to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan

The president said that shortly after his inauguration, he directed Defense Secretary James Mattis and his national security team to undergo a comprehensive review of all strategic options in Afghanistan. 

"My original instinct was to pull out and historically, I like following my instincts," he said, adding that that changes when you become president.

"I studied Afghanistan in great detail and from every conceivable angle." 

The president says he share's Americans' "frustration" with "longest war in American history"

Mr. Trump said that Americans are "weary of war without victory," referring to the war in Afghanistan, which he said has gone on for 17 years. 

"I share the American people's frustration. I also share their frustration over a foreign policy that has [spent] too much time trying to rebuild countries in our own image instead of pursuing our security interests," he said. 

Trump says U.S. troops deserve to return to a country "that is not at war with itself at home" 

Following Charlottesville, Mr. Trump said 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," he said. "And when one citizen suffers an injustice, we all suffer together." 

The president said there's "no tolerance for hate" and troops deserve to return to a country that is "not at war with itself at home." 

Trump sends "thoughts and prayers" to sailors on USS McCain

The president said he sends his thoughts and prayers to the families of the "brave sailors" and to those conducting the search and recovery. He said he's delivering a speech tonight on the path forward in Afghanistan and South Asia. 

Mr. Trump said that since the nation's founding, the U.S. has had a special class of "heroes" whose "selflessness, courage and resolve is unmatched" in history. 

"We can find the inspiration our country needs to unify, to heal, and to remain one nation under God," he said. 

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