Officials: Trump’s Afghan plan involves 3,900 more troops
President Donald Trump’s plan to end America’s longest war and eliminate Afghanistan’s rising extremist threat involves sending up to 3,900 additional U.S. troops, senior officials said Tuesday. The first deployments could take place within days.
In a national address Monday night, Trump reversed his past calls for a speedy exit and recommitted the United States to the 16-year-old conflict, saying U.S. troops must “fight to win.” He warned against repeating what he said were mistakes in Iraq, where an American military withdrawal led to a vacuum that the Islamic State group quickly filled.
Trump would not confirm how many more service members he plans to send to Afghanistan, which may be the public’s most pressing question about his strategy.
In interviews with television networks Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence similarly wouldn’t give any clear answer, but he cited Pentagon plans from June calling for 3,900 more troops.
Although the Pentagon’s plans are based on 3,900 additional troops, the exact number will vary as conditions change, senior U.S. officials said. Those officials weren’t authorized to speak publicly on the figures and demanded anonymity.
They said the Pentagon has told Trump it needs the increase, on top of the roughly 8,400 Americans now in the country, to accomplish Trump’s objectives.
Those goals, he said Monday night, include “obliterating ISIS, crushing al-Qaida, preventing the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan and stopping mass terror attacks against America before they emerge.”
U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Howland, D-13th, said: “President Trump’s lack of detail and refusal to articulate a strategy for ultimately ending the war in Afghanistan is concerning. The American people deserve to know how President Trump and his administration are going to ensure that open-ended war does not become the norm.”
U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson of Marietta, R-6th, said, “I’m encouraged that President Trump” is “going to give our military the tools they need to find and defeat those who wake up every day plotting to kill Americans – no matter where the enemies of freedom try to hide.”
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Cleveland Democrat, said: “A commitment to ‘win’ is not a clear strategy, and our troops on the ground in Afghanistan deserve more. Let me be clear: We cannot commit more troops and taxpayer dollars to this war until we have a clear exit strategy.”
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, a Cincinnati-area Republican, said: “We cannot allow Afghanistan to be used again as a safe haven from which al-Qaida, ISIS and our terrorist enemies can launch attacks on the U.S. and our allies. To do that we need stable partners in the Afghan government.”