President Donald J. Trump tonight unveiled an expansive new strategy for South Asia aimed at bolstering American security.
The new strategy encompasses Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, the Central Asian nations and extends into Southeast Asia. He stressed the strategy will not have artificial timelines built into it.
Trump spoke before a crowd of hundreds of service members at Conmy Hall at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in Virginia.
Trump said the American people are frustrated by the nation’s longest war in Afghanistan, calling it a war without victory. The new strategy, he said, is a path toward victory and will step away from a policy of nation building.
The new strategy, Trump said, is a result of a study he ordered immediately after he was inaugurated in January. The strategy is based on three precepts.
“First, our nation must seek an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the tremendous sacrifices that have been made, especially the sacrifices of lives,” Trump said. “The men and women who serve our nation in combat deserve a plan for victory. They deserve the tools they need and the trust they have earned to fight and to win.”
No Hasty Exit
Trump said the second precept is that a hasty exit from Afghanistan would simply allow terrorists to flood back into that country and begin planning attacks on America and its allies and partners.
The third precept, he said, concerns the threats emanating from the region, which are immense and must be confronted.
“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 said. “For its part, Pakistan often gives safe haven to agents of chaos, violence and terror. The threat is worse because Pakistan and India are two nuclear-armed states whose tense relations threaten to spiral into conflict. And that could happen.”
The United States and its allies and partners are committed to defeating these terrorist groups, Trump said.
“Terrorists who slaughter innocent people will find no glory in this life or the next,” he said. “They are nothing but thugs and criminals and predators and -- that's right -- losers.”
Trump added, “Working alongside our allies, we will break their will, dry up their recruitment, keep them from crossing our borders, and, yes, we will defeat them, and we will defeat them handily.”
In Afghanistan and Pakistan, the United States will work to stop the resurgence of safe havens that enable terrorists to threaten America, Trump said. “And we must prevent nuclear weapons and materials from coming into the hands of terrorists and being used against us, or anywhere in the world, for that matter,” he added.
Trump emphasized the strategy will be conditions based and not set to a timetable. “I've said it many times how counterproductive it is for the United States to announce in advance the dates we intend to begin or end military options,” the president said. “We will not talk about numbers of troops or our plans for further military activities. Conditions on the ground, not arbitrary timetables, will guide our strategy from now on. America's enemies must never know our plans or believe they can wait us out.”
Trump said the new strategy will involve all aspects of American power, employing diplomacy, economic might, intelligence and military power to advance American interests and ensure the safety of the homeland and American allies and partners.
The United States, he added, will continue to support the Afghan government and its military.
“Ultimately, it is up to the people of Afghanistan to take ownership of their future, to govern their society and to achieve an everlasting peace,” Trump said. “We are a partner and a friend, but we will not dictate to the Afghan people how to live or how to govern their own complex society. We are not nation building again. We are killing terrorists.”
Trump said Pakistan is a major concern, and he said Pakistan must stop providing safe havens for terrorists who rest and refit for actions in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
“Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan,” the president said. “It has much to lose by continuing to harbor criminals and terrorists.”
Pakistan Must Change
Trump noted that Pakistan has worked with the United States in the past, but the nation’s policies must change.
“No partnership can survive a country's harboring of militants and terrorists who target U.S. service members and officials,” Trump said. “It is time for Pakistan to demonstrate its commitment to civilization, order and to peace.”
Trump said India will be a key component in any strategy in the region, and the president wants to work with India’s leaders to provide more economic assistance and targeted development to the people of Afghanistan.
“We are committed to pursuing our shared objectives for peace and security in South Asia and the broader Indo-Pacific region,” he said.
The president pledged that service members will have the rules of engagement they need to take swift, decisive actions. “I have already lifted restrictions the previous administration placed on our warfighters that prevented the secretary of defense and our commanders in the field from fully and swiftly waging battle against the enemy,” he said. “Micromanagement from Washington, D.C., does not win battles. They're won in the field, drawing upon the judgment and expertise of wartime commanders, and front-line soldiers, acting in real time with real authority, and with a clear mission to defeat the enemy.”
‘Victory Will Have a Clear Definition’
The president described what he believes victory will look like. “From now on, victory will have a clear definition: Attacking our enemies, obliterating ISIS, crushing al-Qaida, preventing the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan, and stopping mass terror attacks against America before they emerge,” he said.
NATO allies and global partners like Australia will support the new strategy and have already pledged additional troops and funding increases, the president said.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in a statement he has directed Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to prepare to carry out the president’s strategy. “I will be in consultation with the secretary general of NATO and our allies -- several of which have also committed to increasing their troop numbers,” Mattis said in a written statement. “Together, we will assist the Afghan security forces to destroy the terrorist hub.”
The president concluded his speech speaking directly to service members in the hall and around the world.
“With our resolve, we will ensure that your service and that of your families will bring about the defeat of our enemies and the arrival of peace,” Trump said. “We will push onward to victory with power in our hearts, courage in our souls and everlasting pride in each and every one of you.”
(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)