will address the nation on Monday night as he lays out his strategy for the continuing US involvement in the war in Afghanistan.
What is Trump expected to say about Afghanistan tonight?
Trump is due to outline his strategy on Afghanistan and the broader south Asian region. Most reports said this will involve an increase on top of the roughly 8,000-strong US military presence. The US military commander, Gen John Nicholson, : “We are with you and we will stay with you.” However, the details are being very closely held and Trump is unpredictable to say the least. He was a of a continued US role in the 16-year war before coming to the White House, and angrily rejected a troop increase proposal by his national security adviser, HR McMaster, at a reportedly .
The war America can't win: how the Taliban are regaining control in Afghanistan
The defence secretary, James Mattis, has admitted the US and its allies are “” the war in Afghanistan. The Kabul government had control over in the country by the end of last year, which was 15% down on the year before. The Taliban are pressing government forces across the country and the local Isis affiliate, the Islamic State in Khorasan, is on the rise.
Officially, there are 8,400 US troops in the country – although Mattis has suggested the real number may be higher – most of them serving as trainers and advisers to the Afghan national army, with 2,000 special forces and support troops tasked with a specific counterterrorism operations against Isis and other militants.
The option Trump advocated vociferously before becoming president was a full withdrawal, leaving the war to the Afghan government and any other allies willing to stay. The security vacuum would be left to private security contractors, such as those working for Erik Prince, the founder of the infamous Blackwater mercenary company. Prince – a Trump ally and brother of the education secretary, Betsy DeVos – in Washington for the privatisation of the Afghan war for some months.
If Trump bows to the opinions of Mattis and McMaster, he will agree to the troop increase, intended to help the Afghan government hold its ground and convince the Taliban that the US will not allow Kabul to fall, so that they agree to substantive peace talks. The Trump administration’s back-channel contacts with the North Koreans suggests that it would not be ideologically averse to secret talks. However, Trump’s long antipathy to the US presence in may make it harder to convince the Taliban that they cannot wait out Washington’s diminishing patience.
US plan to improve Afghan intelligence operations branded a $457m failure
From the experience of the past seven months, the more that Trump’s Afghan policy represents continuity with Obama administration and reflects the advice from his more conventional advisers, the more emphasis the president will put on how new and unparalleled his policy is.
It will be interesting to see if he makes reference to his past scepticism about the war. The overall framing will almost certainly be as an intensification of the offensive against Isis and other jihadists threatening the US. Also look for heavy emphasis on what the Kabul government and Nato allies will have to do if the US is to remain; the need for the Afghans to do more about corruption could be a theme.
More is likely to be asked of the Pakistani government in the effort to oust the Haqqani terrorist and criminal network which is based on Pakistani territory. Nicholson will be watching the speech especially keenly as Trump is reported to have demanded his dismissal in July, and he was excluded from a final consultation with the president on Saturday.