Just watched the speech and, really, it will take some time for everyone to figure out all the details, but I’ll say this: in war, there is no substitute for victory. Trump has set himself a stern test: Victory.
Now, can he get that? Yes, if you understand:
1. A victory doesn’t mean a liberal democracy in Afghanistan. It will be an authortarian regime with a thin veneer of democratic process. It will still be very Islamic and they’ll do a lot of things we don’t like.
2. A victory does mean an Afghan government in control of more than 90% of Afghan territory and able to defend itself without US ground forces.
3. A victory does mean that the Afghan government which emerges includes some elements currently aligned with the Taliban – in other words, people brought over to our side by the stick of massive military force and the carrot of being able to sit high on the hog if they come over in a timely manner.
4. In the geo-political game of that area, if the Afghan government is broadly aligned with us rather than, say, Iran or Pakistan, then that is victory.
I think this can be done – the gloves are off our military and they’ll have the ability to hit hard at the enemy. And if we do it convincingly enough, then the Afghans, themselves, will cease their whining about US military actions…they’ve only done that over the past years because they were worried we’d leave them in the lurch and at the tender mercies of the Taliban. Convince them that we’re the toughest guys and we will win, and all of a sudden everyone who wants to live will be on our side.
This is a harsh business – and there’s no solution which is 100% in line with what our American preferences would be. But we can get a victory – and then get out. We’ll see, now, if Trump can deliver.