On August 21, President Trump took the stage at Fort Myer, Virginia to announce his long-awaited plan for the future of US engagement in Afghanistan. After spending the first few minutes of his 26 minute speech building up American unity and patriotism in an attempt to pivot from his disappointing and disheartening rhetoric post-Charlottesville, the Commander in Chief got down to discussing his brand new plan for Afghanistan.
The big reveal was far from the massive policy overhaul Trump had once promised. Despite being a man who “like[s] following my instincts”, it seems that the administration will follow in the footsteps of Presidents before him.
Troops already in place will stay on the ground, with more American forces to join in the coming “days or weeks”. America will not nation-build, but rather help the Afghan government and people to “take ownership of their future”. In short, America is there to “kill terrorists” (al Qaeda, ISIS, and Taliban).
To facilitate the killing of terrorists, the Trump plan does deviate in a few important ways from previous administrations. First, military strategy and operations will be less transparent. The President spoke of an approach based on conditions, rather than time. Exactly what those conditions are is anyone’s guess. This approach means less information about numbers of troops and the dates of upcoming military actions.