In what some of his critics on the right saw as a decision as bad as looking at the eclipse without glasses, President Trump announced Monday night that he is going against his "original instinct" and reaffirming the US commitment in Afghanistan instead of pulling troops out. Trump had long described America's longest war as a quagmire, but he will now become the third American president, after George W. Bush and Barack Obama, to send more troops there, reports USA Today, which notes that Trump's address to a military audience at Fort Myer is one of more than a dozen times since 2001 that presidents have announced a new approach in Afghanistan. A roundup of coverage:
- Breitbart, now with Steve Bannon back in charge, accused Trump of a "flip-flop" in a banner headline. An opinion piece accused Trump of "obeying his McMaster's voice," warned that his base would not be pleased with an "open-ended, vague commitment to this foreign quagmire," and stated that Trump's strategy and rhetoric is now very similar to Obama's.
- Officials tell the New York Times that Trump's decision came after months of pushing from military figures in his administration with experience there. They warned that an American pullout could create a haven for ISIS and that more troops were needed, while Bannon favored withdrawing troops and relying on the CIA and private contractors for counterterrorism operations.
- CNN looks at five key parts of Trump's Afghan strategy, including giving US forces more autonomy to fight the Taliban and stopping Pakistan from harboring terrorists from groups like the Haqqani network.
- Insiders tell the Washington Post that Defense Secretary James Mattis, National Security Adviser HR McMaster, and White House chief of staff John Kelly, who lost a son in Afghanistan, were the key voices that changed Trump's mind. The sources say McMaster tried to convince Trump that Afghanistan was not a lost cause by showing him a 1972 photo of women walking around Kabul in miniskirts.
- The AP reports that Trump's speech is getting mixed reactions in Afghanistan, though many are pleased that he decided to speak out against Pakistan.
- Trump's approach may be the right decision, though his plans seem to be "more of the same" with little chance of ending the 16-year-conflict, according to the Los Angeles Times editorial board. "Given the alternative, Trump is right to try to stabilize the situation in Afghanistan," they write. "But it's hard to be optimistic about where that will lead."
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