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Trump to Outline Afghan Strategy       08/21 06:16

   President Donald Trump will use a nationally televised address to outline 
for a war-weary nation the strategy he believes will best position the U.S. to 
eventually declare victory in Afghanistan after 16 years of combat and lives 
lost.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Donald Trump will use a nationally televised 
address to outline for a war-weary nation the strategy he believes will best 
position the U.S. to eventually declare victory in Afghanistan after 16 years 
of combat and lives lost.

   The speech Monday night will also give Trump a chance for a reset after one 
of the most difficult weeks of his short presidency.

   Trump tweeted Saturday that he had reached a decision on the way forward in 
Afghanistan, a day after he reviewed war options with his national security 
team at a meeting at Camp David, Maryland. The president offered no clues about 
whether he would send thousands more U.S. troops into Afghanistan or exercise 
his authority as commander in chief to order that they be withdrawn from 
America's longest war.

   But signs pointed in the direction of Trump continuing the U.S. commitment 
there.

   The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan on Sunday hailed the launch of the 
Afghan Army's new special operations corps and declared that "we are with you 
and we will stay with you."

   Trump scheduled a 9 p.m. EDT Monday address to the nation and U.S. troops 
stationed at the Army's Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall. Next door to the base 
is Arlington National Cemetery, the final resting place for many of the U.S. 
troops who died fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

   It will be Trump's first formal address to the nation outside of his late 
February speech to a joint session of Congress. And it follows one of the most 
trying weeks for the president, who generated a firestorm of criticism after he 
appeared to equate neo-Nazis and white supremacists with the counter-protesters 
who opposed them during a deadly clash, with racial overtones, two weekends ago 
in Charlottesville, Virginia.

   Trump blamed "very fine people, on both sides" for the confrontation in 
which a woman was killed and more than a dozen people were injured. The 
comments triggered rebukes from elected and former elected leaders in both 
political parties, and corporate leaders signaled a lack of confidence in Trump 
by resigning from a pair of White House advisory boards, among other 
expressions of dissent over his comments.

   In Afghanistan, Gen. John Nicholson's comments suggested the Pentagon may 
have won its argument that U.S. military must remain engaged in order to ensure 
that terrorists aren't again able to threaten the U.S. from havens inside of 
Afghanistan.

   Nicholson, who spoke before the announcement about Trump's speech, said the 
commandos and a plan to double the size of the Afghan special operations forces 
are critical to winning the war.

   "I assure you we are with you in this fight. We are with you and we will 
stay with you," Nicholson said during a ceremony at Camp Morehead, a training 
base for Afghan commandoes southeast of Kabul.

   The Pentagon was awaiting a final announcement by Trump on a proposal to 
send in nearly 4,000 more U.S. troops. The added forces would increase training 
and advising of the Afghan forces and bolster counterterrorism operations 
against the Taliban and an Islamic State group affiliate trying to gain a 
foothold in the country.

   The administration had been at odds for months over how to craft a new 
Afghan war strategy amid frustrations that the conflict had stalemated some 16 
years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

   The Afghan government controls just half of the country and is beset by 
endemic corruption and infighting.

   The Islamic State group has been hit hard but continues to attempt major 
attacks, insurgents still find safe harbor in Pakistan, and Russia, Iran and 
others are increasingly trying to shape the outcome. At this point, everything 
the U.S. military has proposed points to keeping the Afghan government in place 
and struggling to turn a dismal quagmire around.

   Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who visited Afghanistan over the weekend, 
declared himself satisfied with how the administration had formulated its new 
strategy. But he refused to discuss details before Trump's announcement.

   Afghan military commanders have been clear that they want and expect 
continued U.S. military help.

   Among elected leaders in the U.S., opinions were mixed about America's 
future role in Afghanistan.

   Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who last year challenged Trump for the Republican 
presidential nomination, favors withdrawing the approximately 8,400 U.S. troops 
currently in Afghanistan --- not sending in more.

   "I think we should begin to leave and then I think we should reserve the 
opportunity and the right, with proper basing of our forces in the region, to 
be able to strike, if we think that there is an effort being made to create 
another launching pad," Kasich said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union. "But 
just to stay there after 16 years, I want our people to be able to come home."

   Sen. Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat and member of the Foreign Relations 
Committee, said he was more interested at this point in hearing Trump's overall 
plan before any talk about troop levels.

   "The troop strength question is sort of the cart before the horse. The real 
question is what is our strategy?" Kaine said on CBS' "Face the Nation." ''And 
then when you lay out the strategy, then the troop strength question can kind 
of answer itself."


(KA)

 
 
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