Trump will address path forward in Afghanistan, expected to raise troop levels

WASHINGTON, D.C.– President Donald Trump is gearing up for a Monday night prime-time address, to talk about his strategy for the longest war in U.S. history.

At 8 p.m. Monday night, the president will discuss a “path forward for America’s engagement in Afghanistan and South Asia.” And, according to administration officials Sunday, that path includes the potential deployment of several thousand more troops.

In late 2001, U.S. troops invaded Afghanistan, shortly after 9/11.

16 years and three American presidents later, an estimated 8,400 American troops are stationed in Afghanistan. Most are part of a 13,000 troop international force that is training and advising the Afghan military.

“The President has made a decision,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters Sunday. “I am very comfortable that the strategic process was sufficiently rigorous.”

Sec. Mattis did not say what exact decision the president made, instead saying Trump himself wanted to outline the new approach.

President Trump had long been a fierce opponent of continuing the war in Afghanistan.

In 2013, he tweeted that withdrawing from the conflict was one area in which he agreed with former President Obama, calling the war a waste of money.

Days earlier, he echoed the same sentiments, saying the country should instead focus on rebuilding itself.

The Trump administration’s decision on troop levels is just one component of a military and political plan that Trump and his aides have been discussing for months. Recently-ousted Trump adviser Steve Bannon fought the military’s recommendation for more troops to be added to Afghanistan.

In June, Sec. Mattis received the authority to send as many as 3,900 troops to Afghanistan so the U.S. could enhance its effort to advise Afghan forces. But Mattis has yet to send more manpower, waiting for the Trump administration to agree upon a broader strategy.

The White House released a statement Sunday, saying President Trump would address the American public and American troops in a speech at Fort Meyer in Virginia Monday night.

The President’s Monday night speech will be he first nationally-televised prime-time address since he spoke before Congress in January.