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Trump to send more troops to Afghanistan

New Hampshire Union Leader

August 21. 2017 10:29PM
President Donald Trump shakes hands with military officers as he departs after announcing his strategy for the war in Afghanistan during an address to the nation from Fort Myer, Va., on Monday. (REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

President Donald Trump addressed the nation Monday night to announce a plan to send more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, though he did not specify the number of soldiers involved or a timetable for bringing them home.

Defense Secretary James Mattis has plans on the table to send about 4,000 more to add to the 8,400 deployed in Afghanistan currently, Reuters reported.

Trump said success would be determined by conditions on the ground and not dictated by a specific timeline.

The President has long been critical of how the United States is fighting the war in Afghanistan, which was launched by President George W. Bush in October 2001 after the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

Trump announced a strategic review soon after taking office in January and has privately questioned whether sending more troops is wise, U.S. officials said.

Trump said he shares Americans' "frustrations" with the Afghanistan war, and directed officials to undertake a comprehensive review of all strategic options in Afghanistan and South Asia shortly after taking office.

"My original instinct was to pull out, and historically I like following my instincts," said Trump. "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."

"Our nation must seek an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the tremendous sacrifices that have been made, especially the sacrifices of lives," said Trump. "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."

About 2,400 U.S. forces have died in Afghanistan.

Trump said the U.S. would no longer announce in advance when it intends "to begin or end military operations."

"We will not talk about numbers of troops or our plans for further military activities," said Trump. "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."

Trump also discussed a change in the country's approach in relations 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," said Trump. "Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan. It has much to lose by continuing to harbor criminals and terrorists."

Trump also declared that a hasty withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan "would create a vacuum," and that America is "not nation-building again. We are killing terrorists."

Following the President’s speech, U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, D-NH, tweeted out: “I’m committed to fighting terrorism and protecting our security, but will oppose any effort to use a troop increase to escalate war.”

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen released this statement: “I support the decision to maintain an American presence but I urge the President not to discount the continued contributions of U.S. diplomats and development professionals as well as local Afghan and Coalition partners. Success in Afghanistan will be a sum of all these parts, and we have to ensure the strength of each.”

Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-NH, said: "It is critical that Afghanistan does not again become a safe haven for terrorists, and we must constantly adjust to the situation on the ground and maintain a troop presence that can ensure that Afghanistan does not slip backward. I appreciate that the President acknowledged the importance of strong diplomatic engagement in South Asia, and I urge him to reverse his plans to severely cut the State Department, which would undermine our security interests.”

In his primetime address at Fort Myer military base in Virginia, Trump referenced the violence sparked last week by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va., saying service members are "brothers and sisters" who are part of the "American family."

"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," said Trump. "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 America requires love for all of its people. When we open our hearts to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice, no place for bigotry, and no tolerance for hate. The young men and women we sent to fight our wars abroad deserve to return to a country that is not at war with itself at home. We cannot remain a force for peace in the world if we are not at peace with each other."

Information from Reuters was used in this report.

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