Last night, Donald Trump made his first televised address to the nation as President, a lengthy foreign policy address revealing what he has decided to do about American involvement in Afghanistan. As a candidate, Trump ran on pulling America out of foreign wars, but the speech represented a reversal of that stand.
Trump said he will authorize military leaders to send US troops to Afghanistan (he didn’t apply a number, but word is that it’s up to 4,000), but he slammed his predecessor, Barack Obama, saying that his tragic mistakes will not be repeated. There will be no announcements in advance of what we will or won’t do, when we’ll attack, and when we plan to leave. We won’t suddenly pull out, leaving a vacuum for terrorists to fill. Micromanagement of the war by politicians and rules of engagement that hamper our troops from fighting back are over. The goal will not be nation-building, but killing terrorists. He called on India to step up its efforts in Afghanistan, and on Pakistan to work fully as a partner in fighting terrorists and stop providing them a safe haven. And he said that if the Taliban wants a possible place in Afghanistan’s future, the only way is through peace because they will not win on the battlefield.
Trump admitted that this policy is a reversal of what he ran on, and it goes against his first instincts, which he usually trusts. But he said that after months of meetings with experts on what’s happened in Afghanistan, he has decided this is the right thing to do.
The speech was greeted with cheers by many military members and veterans, who felt like sitting ducks under the previous Administration’s half-hearted leadership and felt betrayed by giving up of hard-won territory through pulling out prematurely. Even some of Trump’s loudest critics among Republicans praised the speech and the new direction. It would be ironic if Trump became the first politician to boost his approval rating by breaking a major campaign promise. But it would be doubly ironic if Democrats attacked him for admitting he was wrong and changing his mind after listening to others, which is what they’ve been slamming him for being unable to do ever since he rode down the escalator at Trump Tower to announce his candidacy.
Let’s just hope they have the maturity to admit when they are wrong.
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