PresidentÂ Donald TrumpÂ announced on Monday night his administrationâ€™s plans to increase the presence of the United States military in Afghanistan, a strategy meant to combat the influence of the Taliban and the ISIS affiliate in the country that will forgo a formal timetable and instead rely upon “conditions on the ground” to guide U.S. activities.
“We must acknowledge the reality I’m here to talk about tonight, that nearly 16 years after September 11 attacks, after the extraordinary sacrifice of blood and treasure, the American people are weary of war without victory,” said Trump in an address from Virginiaâ€™s Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall.
The president’s announcement follows meetings with military advisers and his national security team at Camp David on Saturday. In June, he gave Secretary of DefenseÂ James MattisÂ the authority to set troops levels in Afghanistan, after providing the defense chief with similar authority over troop levels in Iraq and Syria.
“I have directed the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to make preparations to carry out the presidentâ€™s strategy,” Mattis said Monday in a statement from Jordan, where he is traveling this week.
“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,” he added. “Together, we will assist the Afghan Security Forces to destroy the terrorist hub.”
Though the announcement amounts to a reversal of the position he held prior to his bid for the presidency, the addition of U.S. troops in Afghanistan comes as Trump has demonstrated a willingness to engage militarily in the region.
“My original instinct was to pull out, and historically I like following my instincts,” said Trump Monday night. “But all of my life I heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office.”
Despite official combat operations ceasing in 2014, the U.S. continues to guide and train the Afghan military, and in April dropped a 22,000 pound “mother of all bombs” on ISIS-occupied caves there.
Currently, about 8,400 American troops are stationed in Afghanistan in an advisory capacity. Several thousand U.S. personnel are also engaged in counterterror operations against al Qaeda and ISIS-Khorasan, the groupâ€™s affiliate in Afghanistan.
Trump’s remarks Monday largely avoided specific details and he did not provide a number of troops that will be deployed to the country. Top U.S. military officials, including Mattis, support sending as many as 4,000 additional soldiers as part of a broader revamp of regional strategy.
The president’s decision to increase the U.S. military posture in Afghanistan contrasts sharply with his position from as early as 2012, four years prior to his election, when he said with frequency on social media that the U.S. should “get out of Afghanistan” and that it has “wasted an enormous amount of blood and treasure.”