28 August 2017

Note from Norm: An Afghanistan Plan to Succeed

President Donald Trump’s first major address related to the conduct of America’s war in Afghanistan is a sober acknowledgement of the difficulties of America’s Global War on Terror.

The President was –Presidential.

He offered a much needed call for unity and healing. He gave effusive praise to the men and women in uniform. And he made it clear that that America is committed to winning the Global War on Terror.

The United States has spent 16 years in Afghanistan.

We are not, nor have we ever been, at war with the Afghan people.

We have, and must continue to be, at war with those who prey on the hopes and dreams of the Afghan people to advance their radical Islamic ideology that seeks to destroy the hopes and dreams of those hungry for freedom and liberty.

Candidate Donald Trump took a different position on America’s role in Afghanistan.

To his credit he admitted as such in his remarks about Afghanistan:

“But all my life I’ve heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office, in other words, when you’re president of the United States. So I studied Afghanistan in great detail and from every conceivable angle.”

In doing so he acknowledged that being President of the United States requires the capacity and ability to look at the facts, listen to the experts and formulate a policy based on the best interests of our nation and those of our allies.

That assessment brought the President to highlight these three fundamental conclusions:

  • First, our nation must seek an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the tremendous sacrifices that have been made, especially the sacrifices of lives.
  • Second, the consequences of a rapid exit are both predictable and unacceptable. 9/11, the worst terrorist attack in our history, was planned and directed from Afghanistan because that country was ruled by a government that gave comfort and shelter to terrorists.
  • Third, and finally, I concluded that the security threats we face in Afghanistan and the broader region are immense. Today, 20 U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organizations are active in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the highest concentration in any region anywhere in the world.

The President used his usual, blunt language in describing the character of those America seeks to defeat.

“They are nothing but thugs and criminals and predators and, that’s right, losers…”

But these thugs, criminals, predators and losers have exacted a painful toll on America.

Nearly 2,500 American fighting men and women have died in Afghanistan.

Over 20,000 have been wounded in action.

It has been a long, difficult and inconclusive war.

President Trump emphasized that if we are to conclude this war, and the global war on terror, in a way that protects and preserves the future of our nation and our allies we must be in it to win it.

Winning it requires new strategies.  New tactics and partners.

It requires untying the hands of the men and women we have tasked with winning this war.

It demands that Pakistan step up and understand that America will not look the other way when the country’s leaders give aid and comfort to our enemies.

President Trump makes it clear that America’s not in Afghanistan to do nation building but to battle an enemy that seeks to destroy the Afghan nation, as well as our own.

The President insists that his vision and plan represent a marked new approach to winning the war in Afghanistan.

While he made clear America’s resolve to win he also made clear America’s resolve isn’t a blank check.

By insisting that Afghanistan must address corruption and other factors undermining its own future the President minced no words:

“Our patience is not unlimited. We will keep our eyes wide open.”

Unlike his predecessor who made a point of telling the world and the enemy what America would do President Trump made a point of telling the world and the enemy he has no intention of announcing troop levels, future military plans or the dates of military operations.

“I will not say when we are going to attack, but attack we will.”

Action, not words, will determine whether or not the new approach to Afghanistan announced by President Trump will prevail.

But having a Commander in Chief who listens to his Generals-and is committed to winning, greatly enhances the prospects for success –and the likelihood of a safer and more secure America.