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Monday night, Donald Trump delivered his most consequential military speech to date. The president outlined his administration's strategy on Afghanistan and the ongoing, decades-long American military engagement in the nation.
Trump will increase troops in Afghanistan, which has seen a resurgence in radical Islamic terror and terror attacks. The speech outlined greater overarching strategies in an approach to fighting terrorism and radical regimes across the region, most notably eliminating the concept of democracy and nation-building and enabling military leaders to act decisively to kill the enemy.
At one point Trump even called the terrorists “losers.”
The candor and force of the speech were very different from Barack Obama, whose measured, beta-tested approach to discussing terrorism and U.S. military engagement in the region frustrated even his closest advisers.
However, there was one point in the speech where Trump broke away from Obama-era military strategy the harshest. It has to do with outlining our military strategy to the enemy.
Here is Obama in 2011 outlining in a live television broadcast his Afghanistan withdrawal strategy:
"Thanks to our extraordinary men and women in uniform, our civilian personnel, and our many coalition partners, we are meeting our goals. As a result, starting next month, we will be able to remove 10,000 of our troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year, and we will bring home a total of 33,000 troops by next summer, fully recovering the surge I announced at West Point.
After this initial reduction, our troops will continue coming home at a steady pace as Afghan security forces move into the lead. Our mission will change from combat to support. By 2014, this process of transition will be complete, and the Afghan people will be responsible for their own security.
We’re starting this drawdown from a position of strength."
Here is Trump describing how he will approach strategy in Afghanistan:
"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. I will not say when we are going to attack, but attack we will. [...]
I have already lifted restrictions the previous administration placed on our warfighters that prevented the secretary of defense and our commanders in the field from fully and swiftly waging battle against the enemy. Micromanagement from Washington, D.C., does not win battles. They are won in the field drawing upon the judgment and expertise of wartime commanders and frontline soldiers acting in real time, with real authority, and with a clear mission to defeat the enemy.
That's why we will also expand authority for American armed forces to target the terrorist and criminal networks that sow violence and chaos throughout Afghanistan. These killers need to know they have nowhere to hide; that no place is beyond the reach of American might and Americans arms. Retribution will be fast and powerful."
The transmitting and timetabling of our military strategy by the Obama administration was always a very sore point for members of the military who were frustrated with this style of war fighting.
It also equally frustrated members of the Afghan government. Earlier this year, the Afghan ambassador described to Independent Journal Review the difference between the Obama administration and the Trump administration as it pertains to war fighting in Afghanistan:
Trump continually asked “How can you win? What does Afghanistan need to win?” in reference to our fight with terrorism. Trump wants to win. Sincerely. All the Obama administration wanted to do was not lose.
The Obama administration was hesitant with us. The enemy could sense that. When the Obama administration announced its plans to pull troops out of the region, they announced the exact date they would do it. All our enemies had to do was wait [Obama] out. They knew the date they had to hang on until — which gave them the will to fight. They used that time to recruit and build up resources.
The policy to not transmit to America's enemies what our military intentions are and when we will execute them might be the most consequential change Trump has made since the Obama era.
America's military allies certainly seem to think so.
Please note: This is a commentary piece. The views and opinions expressed within it are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect the editorial opinion of IJR.