Donald Trump
© Joshua Roberts / Reuters
US President Donald Trump said he ordered the US military to aggressively engage the Taliban and "fight to win" in Afghanistan "killing terrorists," signaling there will be no "rapid exit" from the 16-year war.

"Our troops will fight to win," Trump said, and he insisted victory in Afghanistan would be clearly defined. In his assertive speech at the Army's Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, next to Arlington National Cemetery, the president said, "My administration will ensure that you, the brave defenders of the American people, will have the necessary tools and rules of engagement to make this strategy work."

Trump spoke as he presented a new Afghanistan strategy that as Trump said was under consideration right after his inauguration.

No pullout, fast & powerful retribution

"My original instinct was to pull out - and, historically, I like following my instincts," he went on. "But all my life I've heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office; in other words, when you're President of the United States."

Comment: The 'deep state' has its ways of controlling the president.

He concluded differently, however.

"A hasty withdrawal," Trump said, would create a "vacuum" for terrorists. He argued that "9/11, the worst terrorist attack in our history, was planned and directed from Afghanistan because that country was ruled by a government that gave comfort and shelter to terrorists.

"The consequences of a rapid exit are both predictable and unacceptable," he added.

He reiterated the statement again, saying the US troops will remain in the country for an indefinite term.

"Conditions on the ground - not arbitrary timetables - will guide our strategy from now on. America's enemies must never know our plans or believe they can wait us out," he stressed. Trump said he "won't talk" troop numbers from now on.

About 2,400 Americans have died in the war, the longest in US history. Trump is the third American president promising to win the war, preceded by George W. Bush, who originally sent troops to Afghanistan, and Barack Obama, who repeatedly vowed to pull them out.

Trump also said that he has lifted restrictions by the previous administration "to expand authority for American armed forces to target the terrorist and criminal networks that sow violence and chaos throughout Afghanistan." He added that "no place is beyond the reach of American might and Americans arms. Retribution will be fast and powerful."

This time, the American strategy will become more assertive, Trump said.

"Someday, after an effective military effort, perhaps it will be possible to have a political settlement that includes elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan, but nobody knows if or when that will ever happen," he noted.

Building the future and making a lasting peace now rests exclusively with the Afghans, Trump hinted. "We are a partner and a friend, but we will not dictate to the Afghan people how to live, or how to govern their own complex society," he said, adding, "We are not nation-building again. We are killing terrorists."

Trump was widely expected to heed the advice of his senior advisers Monday evening and announce an increase of the number of US troops in Afghanistan, which currently stands around 8,400.

Defense Secretary James Mattis released a statement saying that he had "directed the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to make preparations to carry out the president's strategy."

"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. Together, we will assist the Afghan Security forces to destroy the terrorist hub," Mattis said.

Threats to Pakistan & Afghanistan

Donald Trump also slammed Pakistan for "sheltering terrorists," despite being a key US ally receiving billions of dollars.

"Pakistan has also sheltered the same organizations that try every single day to kill our people. We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting. But that will have to change, and that will change immediately. No partnership can survive a country's harboring of militants and terrorists who target US service-members and officials."

The US president threatened to change America's stance on Pakistan if it's "continuing to harbor criminals and terrorists."

"It is time for Pakistan to demonstrate its commitment to civilization, order, and to peace. We can no longer be silent about Pakistan's safe havens for terrorist organizations, the Taliban and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond. Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan," Trump said.

Speaking of the role played by the Afghan government in restoring peace in the country, Trump said US patience is running out as "America will work with the Afghan government as long as we see determination and progress. However, our commitment is not unlimited, and our support is not a blank check. The government of Afghanistan must carry their share of the military, political, and economic burden. The American people expect to see real reforms, real progress, and real results. Our patience is not unlimited."

'Jihad will go on'

The Taliban has condemned Trump's new strategy on Afghanistan.

"Instead of continuing of war in Afghanistan, Americans should have thought about withdrawing their soldiers from Afghanistan," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said hours after Trump's speech.

He added that "as long as there is even one American soldier in our country," the Islamist insurgents would "continue jihad," according to Reuters.

He also said that the Taliban will come out with a more detailed response in the future. Last week the Taliban released a 1,600-word open letter to the president warning him against a troop surge and advising that he withdraw the troops altogether.

"Previous experiences have shown that sending more troops to Afghanistan will not result in anything other than further destruction of American military and economical might," the Taliban said, adding that they are not ready for peace talks until the US and NATO give a timeline for troop withdrawal.

Russia, a major security provider in Central Asia, has recently voiced criticism over the US involvement in Afghanistan.

"The American campaign in Afghanistan has failed. Afghanistan risks becoming a global incubator of international terrorism. It has, in fact, already partially grown to become it," Zamir Kabulov, who is also the Russian Foreign Ministry's director of the Second Asian Department in Afghanistan, told Izvestia daily in mid-August.

British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has praised Donald Trump's promise to keep US troops in Afghanistan after fears he was planning to pull them out.

The president, going against what he had said during the election campaign, announced on Monday that the US would not withdraw personnel as doing so would leave a power vacuum that could be filled by terrorists.

He called on NATO allies such as Britain to increase troops "in line with our own," adding "we are confident they will."

In response, Fallon said the US commitment was "welcome," according to the Telegraph.

"In my call with [US Defense] Secretary Mattis yesterday we agreed that despite the challenges, we have to stay the course in Afghanistan to help build up its fragile democracy and reduce the terrorist threat to the West.

"It's in all our interests that Afghanistan becomes more prosperous and safer: that's why we announced our own troop increase back in June."

Several US administration officials said that up to 4,000 additional US troops would be deployed to combat a resurgent Taliban and the growing number of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) fighters in the country, although Trump would not be drawn on numbers on Monday evening.

There are currently up to 585 British troops stationed in Afghanistan alongside 8,400 American soldiers.

Stop The War Coalition's chief Lindsey German said the British government should remember that NATO powers never left Afghanistan, and their bombing in recent years has led to many civilian deaths and even greater resentment towards the west.

She said the Taliban even sent a letter to Trump last week calling on him to ignore his generals and stressing that "continued war only led to new recruits to fight against US forces."

German said this, along with Trump's saber rattling over North Korea, shows it is time for Britain to break its 'special relationship' with the US.

"There is a tremendous sense of weariness over these wars and a recognition that - far from ending terrorism - they are helping foment it. The solution offered by Trump in Afghanistan is no solution, for the people of Afghanistan or for anyone else."

German added that Trump and May "flounder around with no idea how to end wars, and are therefore committed to carrying them on."

"The cost to the rest of us is wasted lives, millions made refugees, instability and terrorism.

"May's continued invitation to Trump for a state visit to Britain is a disgrace, and should be rescinded now. That, troop withdrawal and a change in foreign policy that breaks with Trump are the only antidotes to this continued disaster."

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in a statement that he would consult with NATO and other allies, adding that "several" had already committed to increasing troop numbers.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says the new Afghanistan strategy may pave way for a peace deal between Taliban militants and the Afghan government, bringing them "legitimacy," while the US leader does not consider it possible in the nearest future.

"Our new strategy breaks from previous approaches that set artificial, calendar-based deadlines," Tillerson said in a statement following US President Donald Trump's speech on a new Afghanistan strategy on Monday evening.

"We are making clear to the Taliban that they will not win on the battlefield," he warned, calling on the militants to come to the negotiating table.

"The Taliban has a path to peace and political legitimacy through a negotiated political settlement to end the war. We stand ready to support peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban without preconditions," Tillerson stated.

Russia has previously called for the integration of the Taliban to the political process if the militants were to obey the country's law.

"The Taliban must become a part of the political process if they recognize the current constitution of Afghanistan, give up on violence and will have nothing to do with terrorists," Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in May. He added that the Taliban is a part of Afghan population, which needs to be united under those conditions.

"It is hard to imagine that without them [the Taliban] the conflict can be resolved, especially after the destruction, which NATO forces left behind after their decade-long presence," Lavrov stated. He added that NATO did not solve any problem in Afghanistan and opened the way for Islamic State to come to the country.

Roughly around the time Trump started his Afghanistan speech, Ron Paul tweeted out a cautiously optimistic note: "Hoping for the best in tonight's @realDonaldTrump speech but fearful that foreign intervention is only going to get worse. #Afghanistan." Alas it was not meant to be, and over 20 tweets later in what proved to be the angriest tweetstorm of the night, Ron Paul had come to a conclusion: Trump is now nothing more than the latest neocon, one whom even Lindsey Graham applauded.

Below is a chronological rundown of Ron Paul's progressively angier tweets, as he was live commenting on Trump's speech:
  • Hoping for the best in tonight's @realDonaldTrump speech but fearful that foreign intervention is only going to get worse. #Afghanistan
  • Steve Bannon brakes removed. Neocons feeling their oats.
  • The military personnel are the victims of bad foreign policy.
  • Sad that these wars the politicians argue for are unconstitutional yet we are told we are over there defending the Constitution.
  • Mr. President it's too bad you do not follow your instincts.
  • Planned in Afghanistan? What about Saudi Arabia??
  • What's wrong with rapid exit? We just marched in we can just march out.
  • So far very discouraging. Sounds like pure neocon foreign policy.
  • The promoters of war win. The American people lose. #Afghanistan
  • Remember: there was no al-Qaeda until our foolish invasion of Iraq based on neocon lies.
  • The American people deserve to know when we are going to war and MUST give you permission through their representatives in Congress!
  • Emphasis on Pakistan just means the war going to be expanded!
  • Emphasis on military alliance with India may well lead to more vicious war between nuclear states Pakistan and India. Smart?
  • Terrorism is one thing, but what about massive collateral damage? Killing civilians creates more terrorism. Round and round we go.
  • Shorter Trump: "Afghanistan: give us your minerals!"
  • Nothing new. More of the same. Obama was wrong. This is NOT the good war. Sooner we get out the better.
  • More killing is not the road to peace.
  • The emphasis on the "grave danger" of terrorism is greatly exaggerated. But more intervention surely creates more terrorism.
  • How many Americans are really sitting around worrying about an Afghan terrorist coming over and killing them?
  • So many of our problems are self-inflicted by a deeply flawed foreign policy. US troops - and the family members - suffer the consequences.
  • Big issue of the night: US expanding the war into Pakistan. Could precipitate more conflict between nuclear India and Pakistan.
  • If Americans are tired of 16 year war, how will they feel about another decade or two? When will they wake up?
  • Our ultimately "hasty" departure from Vietnam finally ended a lot of grief. Even if it came way too late.
  • Beware! @LindseyGrahamSC loves Trump's speech! Why are arch-neocons celebrating so much? Very telling!
  • There's nothing hasty about ending America's longest war. @POTUS bowed to military-industrial establishment; doubled down on perpetual war.
Based on Trump's speech, Ron Paul's concerns are well founded. Then again, as we await Breitbart's response to Trump's address one thing is certain: Steve Bannon will not be happy with what "neocon" Trump said tonight, even if the WaPo and NYT are now on "mute" mode when it comes to NSA-sourced, anti-Trump scoops.

And while there is a distinct possibility that tomorrow night, when addressing his increasingly shaky core support base, Trump will change his mind, with two generals whispering in his ear constantly to determine US foreign policy even as two ex-Goldmanites now write domestic US policy, it is quite likely that the Trump who was unveiled tonight, is the Trump that will stay with the US population for the indefinite future. And if for some reason the "new and improved" Trump slips and fades away again... well there's always the Mueller "Russia collusion" probe in the background keeping the president on his toes.

Update: Here's Breitbart's take, as expected.

Breitbart headline