Terrorists who slaughter innocent people will find no joy in this life and any other life, President Donald Trump said in an address to the nation on Monday night at Fort Myer, Va.
Calling terrorists thugs, criminals, predators and losers, Trump, while unveiling his “path forward” message, said the U.S. will keep under wraps timetables, strategies and the number of troops that will be sent to engage in military attacks.
Trump, who as a candidate promised his supporters that his “America First” campaign would avoid foreign entanglements focusing instead on issues on American soil, said his reversal, even with conditions, was a result of the reality he has faced since taking over the White House.
He emphasized that unlike George W. Bush who first sent troops to invade Afghanistan after 9/11, which continued under Barack Obama in the country’s longest war of 16 years, “Our commitment is not unlimited and is not a blank check.”
He went on to say the American people “expect to see real reforms and real results.”
He said America’s strategy in Afghanistan and throughout the world will change.
“We are not nation building again. We are killing terrorists,” Trump said, vowing to break from what he has described as a dumb practice of announcing when military action would take place.
“I will not say when we’re going to attack, but attack we will,” Trump said.
The U.S. will also approach differently how to deal with Pakistan, whom he said represents a safe haven for terrorists.
“Pakistan in the past has been a valued partner; the Pakistani people have suffered greatly from terrorists, but also they’ve sheltered the same organizations that try to kill our people every single day,” he said.
No country can survive a harbor of enemies who attack the U.S. and that changes now, the president asserted.
“Pakistan has much to lose if they continue to harbor terrorists and criminals,” he said, as numerous military personnel made up the overwhelming majority of the audience at the Army’s Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall located across the Potomac River from the District.
Trump also pledged not to use military might to construct democracies — a major shift from past presidents. However, his policy appears to mirror that adopted by the Obama administration which discontinued a direct U.S. combat mission but held back on a total withdrawal.
The president, who has justifiably taken a major hit in the polls and around the world for his controversial statements regarding the Charlottesville violence led by white supremacists and neo-Nazis, opened his speech by indirectly addressing that situation.
He spoke about bigotry, hate and tolerance.
“A wound inflicted upon a single member of our community is a wound inflicted upon us all,” he said, coming as close as he ever before the public in ramping back his previous comments when he said there was enough blame for everyone and refused to condemn the racists who incited the uprising.
“When one part of America hurts, we all hurt,” Trump said. “And, when one citizen suffers an injustice, we all suffer together.”
Returning to the Afghanistan threat, the president noted that his original instinct had been to pull the troops out.
“I [have] concluded that the security threats we face in Afghanistan and the broader region are immense,” Trump said.
He offered few specifics and declined from providing the number of additional troops that will be sent to the war, though the Associated Press reported that U.S. officials said they expect him to go along with a Pentagon recommendation for nearly 4,000 new troops. The president has given Defense Secretary Jim Mattis the authority to determine how many more troops to deploy — evidence of a recent shift in which Trump has yielded more authority to uniformed leaders.
“We will not talk about numbers of troops or our plans for further military activities,” Trump said. “Conditions on the ground, not arbitrary timetables, will guide our strategy from now on.”
There are roughly 8,400 American forces currently in Afghanistan. At its peak, the U.S. had roughly 100,000 forces there, under the Obama administration in 2010-2011.
Trump said the American people are “weary of war without victory.”
“I share the America people’s frustration,” Trump said. “In the end, we will win.”
WI Editor D. Kevin McNeir contributed to this article.