The president and his advisors have been weighing options regarding how to proceed in the 16-year-old war for months. Military leaders including National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster have pushed for a troop increase. But while war hawks claim that a withdrawal would leave openings for the Taliban and ISIS to win back control of the region, the Taliban in a recent open letter argued that the only thing driving the war is the continued presence of U.S. troops and allied forces. Trump aides including former top adviser Steve Bannon also reportedly met with Erik Prince, founder of the private security firm Blackwater, to discuss the possibility of sending contractors to Afghanistan to privatize the war.
During the Obama administration and the 2016 campaign, Trump frequently criticized the continuation of the conflict in Afghanistan.
When will we stop wasting our money on rebuilding Afghanistan? We must rebuild our country first.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 7, 2011
Why are we continuing to train these Afghanis who then shoot our soldiers in the back? Afghanistan is a complete waste. Time to come home!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 21, 2012
Let’s get out of Afghanistan. Our troops are being killed by the Afghanis we train and we waste billions there. Nonsense! Rebuild the USA.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 11, 2013
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Former State Department official Matthew Hoh, who resigned from his position in protest of the Obama administration's announcement that it would increase troop levels in Afghanistan in 2009, wrote Monday that Trump's speech would likely include the same falsehoods that have allowed the two previous administrations to rationalize the continuation of the conflict:
Tonight, the American people will hear again the great lie about the progress the American military once made in Afghanistan after "the Afghan Surge," just as we often hear the lie about how the American military had "won" in Iraq...In Afghanistan there has never even been an attempt at...a political solution and all the Afghan people have seen in the last eight years, every year, has been a worsening of the violence.
Americans will also hear tonight how the U.S. military has done great things for the Afghan people. You would be hard pressed to find many Afghans outside of the incredibly corrupt and illegitimate government, a better definition of a kleptocracy you will not find, that the U.S. keeps in power with its soldiers and $35 billion a year, who would agree with the statements of the American politicians, the American generals, and the pundits, the latter of which are mostly funded, directly or indirectly, by the military companies.
The president's actions in the conflict this year have included an airstrike in northeastern Afghanistan in April, in which the military dropped the "Mother of All Bombs," the United States' most powerful non-nuclear weapon, on suspected ISIS targets, killing less than 100 fighters.
In June, Trump authorized Defense Secretary General James Mattis to send up to 3,900 additional troops into the country, but has thus far supplied the military with no clear sense of what a potential troop surge would accomplish. NATO allies have also declined to send more men and women to the region without clear directives from Trump.