President Donald Trump laid out a new strategy to win the long war in afghanistan, reversing a campaign pledge to withdraw from that country, before an audience of servicemen and women at Fort Meyer. The core aspects of the new strategy include augmenting the current 8,400 person force in Afghanistan with another 4,000 troops, the lifting of Obama-era restrictive Rules Of Engagement, and demands from India and especially Pakistan to help defeat the terrorists. The United States would also avoid “nation building” and would concentrate solely on killing terrorists.

Mini-surge in Afghanistan

While the addition of 4,000 troops to the current forces in Afghanistan, along with some additional forces from NATO allies, does not constitute that large of a buildup, Trump will loosen Obama-era rules of engagement that has chaffed the military the past several years.

From now on, military commanders in the field will have broad discretion to perform operations without direct interference from the White House. The extra troops will not only train and advise Afghan forces but will conduct counter insurgency efforts against the Taliban and other terrorists.

Pakistan and other countries served notice

Pakistan has played a double game for decades in the region, both supporting the United States as well as providing a safe haven for groups like the Taliban. Pakistan will now be required to choose. It can help to eject terrorists from its sovereign territory, or the United States will do that task for Pakistan.

Why the change of policy?

Trump had spent the campaign suggesting that it was time to cut losses and leave Afghanistan. However, he seems to have been convinced by his military and intelligence advisors that such a course would be a disaster.

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He cited the decision by President Obama to leave Iraq that led to the rise of ISIS. A repetition of that tragedy would not be tolerated. Terrorists would not be allowed to use Afghanistan as a safe haven to conduct attacks against the United States and European countries.

What constitutes success?

Trump left out of his speech any clue as to what would constitute success. The omission was largely the result of his policy of strategic uncertainty, of not signaling to the enemy what his goals are and how exactly he will carry them out. The commitment is over ended, a departure from the Obama policy that included a date certain of withdrawing from Afghanistan. That policy had been criticized as providing the enemy assurance that all they had to do is to outlast the United States to prevail. That assurance no longer exists.