Declaring the U.S. will win “in the end,” President Donald Trump vowed Monday night to keep American troops fighting in Afghanistan despite his earlier inclination to withdraw. But he insisted the U.S. would not offer “a blank check” after 16 years of war, and he pointedly declined to say whether or when more troops might be sent.
In a prime-time address billed as the unveiling of his new Afghanistan strategy, Trump said the U.S. 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.
Still, he offered few details about how that approach would differ substantively from what the U.S. has already tried unsuccessfully under the past two presidents.
“We will not talk about numbers of troops or our plans for further military activities,” Trump said. “Conditions on the ground, not arbitrary timetables, will guide our strategy from now on.”
Ahead of his speech, U.S. officials said they expected the president to go along with a Pentagon recommendation to send nearly 4,000 new troops, boosting the total of 8,400 in Afghanistan now. At its peak, the U.S. had roughly 100,000 there, under the Obama administration in 2010-2011.
Trump said his “original instinct was to pull out,” alluding to his long-expressed view before becoming president that Afghanistan was an unsolvable quagmire requiring a fast U.S. withdrawal. Since taking office, Trump said, he’d determined that approach could create a vacuum that terrorists including al-Qaida and the Islamic State could…
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