Like many of you, I watched President Trump’s 25-minute speech on his national security strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia. What was most important to have witnessed was his understanding, unlike Barack Obama, that one cannot wed a national security strategy to campaign rhetoric. Obama was an intransigent ideologue and regardless of reality, ground truth, intelligence assessments, and the counsel of senior military leaders, he went ahead and withdrew our forces from Iraq. What Joe Biden hailed as a monumental foreign policy achievement quickly backfired.
And so, President Trump has learned that fundamental lesson: “the enemy has a vote:” Afghanistan now, and the broader south Asia region in general, is home to some 20 Islamic jihadist organizations. An American withdrawal would only serve to provide them a base of operations and sanctuary. About three weeks ago, we wrote here a strategy for Afghanistan, with some fundamental principles. We’ve also been reiterating a need for President Trump to deliver a prime time national security address outlining his “doctrine.” He did so, and he did so very well.
Perhaps the five most important words Trump uttered are those Obama never could: Our troops will fight to win.
The point now is can he avoid stepping on his own message and stay focused?
President Trump laid out these points, on which I concur:
– Shift from time-based to conditions-based operations. This means we have certain conditions to be met based on strategic, operational, and tactical objectives. This will require the development of measures of effectiveness criteria that precipitate moving onto subsequent conditions.
– Full implementation of all elements of national power, i.e. the D-I-M-E theory which means bringing to bear diplomatic, informational, military and economic synergy to achieve our objectives and integration of the conditions-based operations to synchronize those effects.
– Focus on Pakistan. We have always stated that the first strategic objective has to be to deny the enemy sanctuary, meaning we are enemy-oriented and not terrain-oriented. In the strategy piece we previously wrote this is what we mean by expanding and conducting operations in the area of influence (AI) that affects the area of operations (AO). Here we can use diplomatic and economic pressure against Pakistan, and when necessary, strike operations against Islamic jihadist sanctuaries.
– Strategic partnership with India. There is no better way to send a message to Pakistan than to have better relations with India. And also, it sends a message to China as there are some regional disputes being kicked up there as well. India is the world’s largest democracy, also has an Islamic jihadist issue, and they’re not too fond of Pakistan.
– Better resources and lifting restrictive Rules of Engagement (ROE). This is no-brainer; we must end the absurd self-imposed ROEs that prevent our troops on the ground from taking the offense and having the initiative against any and all Islamic jihadist groups. We will see more decentralized decision making, not emanating from the White House as with the Obama years.
– No nation building, thank goodness! Our military isn’t about building foreign infrastructure and political institutions…they are there to kill the enemy. Furthermore, this is what is understood and respected in that part of the world…strength, might, and resolve. Winning hearts and minds must come to mean ripping out the heart of the enemy in order to persuade their minds.
– Strategically applied force. This is essential, as the greatest combat multiplier our military has is its strategic mobility, the ability to present itself and employ the full array of our weapon systems anywhere. There will no longer be any safe havens for Islamic jihadists.
In closing, this was vital: President Trump stated that our commitment is not unlimited, but we will not be expressing troop numbers and timelines. We will know what the conditions are and whether they have been met in order to move to a subsequent phase. Also, there is no blank check, others will have to pony up, to include the people of Afghanistan. The message has been sent, do your part or be seen as part of the problem…and accept the consequences and ramifications as such.
This speech was a total 180-degree shift from the cowering, acquiescent, nuanced hour-long blathering from Barack Obama. This was short and to the point, and we clearly understand what the Trump Doctrine is regarding the defeat of militant Islamic jihadism.
[Learn more about Allen West’s vision for this nation in his book Guardian of the Republic: An American Ronin’s Journey to Faith, Family and Freedom]