[A] wound inflicted upon a single member of our community, is a wound inflicted upon us all. When one part of America hurts, we all hurt. And when one citizen suffers an injustice, we all suffer together.
Loyalty to our nation demands loyalty to one another. Love for America requires love for ALL of its people.
We cannot remain a force for peace in the world if we are not at peace with each other.
[S]hortly after my inauguration, I directed Secretary of Defense Mattis and my national security team to undertake a comprehensive review of all strategic options in Afghanistan and South Asia.
My original instinct was to pull out, and historically I like following my instincts, but all of my life I heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office. So I studied Afghanistan in great detail and from every angle. After many meetings, over many months, we held our final meeting last Friday at Camp David, with my Cabinet and Generals, to complete our strategy. I arrived at three fundamental conclusions about America’s core interests in Afghanistan.
FIRST: Our nation must seek an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the tremendous sacrifices that have been made…
SECOND: The consequences of a rapid exit are both predictable and unacceptable… A hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum that terrorists – including ISIS and Al Qaeda – would instantly fill, just as happened before September Eleventh…
THIRD AND FINALLY, I concluded that the security threats we face in Afghanistan and the broader region are immense.
Today twenty U.S. designated foreign terrorist organizations are active in Afghanistan and Pakistan – the highest concentration in any region of the world. For its part, Pakistan often gives safe haven to agents of chaos, violence and terror. The threat is worse because Pakistan and India are two nuclear-armed states whose tense relations threaten to spiral into conflict.
In Afghanistan and Pakistan, America’s interests are clear: we must stop the re-emergence of safe-havens that enable terrorists to threaten America; and we must prevent nuclear weapons and materials from coming into the hands of terrorists and being used against us.
But to prosecute this war, we will learn from history. As a result of our comprehensive review, American strategy in Afghanistan and South Asia will change dramatically in the following ways:
A core pillar of our new strategy is a shift from a time-based approach to one based on conditions. I’ve said many times how counterproductive it is for the United States to announce in advance the dates we intend to begin, or end, military operations. We will not talk about numbers of troops or our plans for further military activities.
The next pillar of our new strategy is a change in our approach to Pakistan. 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. It has much to lose by continuing to harbor terrorists.
Finally, 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.
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, DC does not win battles. They are won in the field drawing upon the judgment and expertise of wartime commanders and front line 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 arms…
We will also maximize sanctions and other financial and law enforcement actions against these networks, to eliminate their ability to export terror.
Our troops will fight to win. From now on, victory will have a clear definition: attacking our enemies, obliterating ISIS, crushing al-Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking over the country, and stopping mass terror attacks against Americans before they emerge.
The stronger the Afghan security forces become the less we will have to do. Afghans will secure and build their own nation, and define their own future. We want them to succeed.
But we will no longer use American military might to construct democracies in far away lands, or try to rebuild other countries in our own image – those days are now over. Instead, we will work with allies and partners to protect our shared interests. We are not asking others to change their way of life, but to pursue common goals that allow our children to live better lives. This Principled Realism will guide our decisions moving forward.
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 American people expect to see real reforms and real results.