USA Today — August 21, 2017
Mike Pence: Donald Trump’s new American strategy for Afghanistan will undo past failures
President Trump has no higher priority than the safety and security of the American people. Since the very first day of our administration, he has taken decisive action to protect our citizens, our country and our very way of life — and on Monday, President Trump announced a new strategy for addressing threats from Afghanistan and South Asia that will enhance the security of our homeland and protect our people from those who would do us harm.
America must prevent terrorists from regaining a foothold in Afghanistan — the country from where al-Qaeda, aided by the Taliban, planned and directed the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Yet the previous administration publicly placed an arbitrary end date on military operations in Afghanistan, enabling the Taliban to bide its time and begin a renewed campaign to reconquer its lost territory. We need only look at Iraq, and the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria following the last administration’s withdrawal of U.S. forces, to see where this path leads.
President Trump has reversed that policy. And important, he has ensured that our armed forces will have the resources and authorization they need in order to succeed.
The president has authorized our armed forces to directly target the terrorists and militant networks that sow violence and chaos throughout Afghanistan, who put our soldiers at risk and destabilize the region. He has lifted the restrictions that prevented our commanders in the field from fully using their judgment and expertise to carry out their critical missions. Bureaucrats don’t win battles; our brave men and women in uniform do, and they deserve the flexibility they need to fight and win every time.
At the same time, our strategy will integrate all instruments of American power — diplomatic and economic as well as military — to move toward a political settlement in Afghanistan that protects our interests. Achieving this goal requires that both the Afghan authorities and the Taliban demonstrate political will to participate in a meaningful dialogue. This means we must defeat the Taliban in the field and support the Afghan government. As President Trump has said, the United States of America seeks “a future (in our hemisphere) where the people of each country can live out their dreams" — a future of freedom, security, and prosperity for us all.
To be clear: America’s goal in Afghanistan is not to impose democracy or a strong central government that runs counter to Afghanistan’s tradition of local autonomy. Nonetheless, we insist that the Afghan government reduce corruption, implement reforms, and continue to strengthen its security forces, which have repeatedly proved their courage and resolve on the field of battle.
President Trump has determined that conditions — not arbitrary timetables — will guide our strategy. The previous administration alerted our enemies ahead of time by announcing troop numbers and timelines, something President Trump has wisely refused to do.
A stable Afghanistan will mean a safer America. To achieve this goal, President Trump’s new strategy for South Asia also calls for a shift in America’s policy towards Pakistan, a place he refuses to ignore.
Pakistan, like Afghanistan, is a haven for terrorist activity. Between the two countries, no fewer than 20 U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organizations have haven and conduct operations — the highest concentration of any region in the world. Pakistan, which has borne the weight of terrorist attacks in the past, shares with us a common enemy in ISIS and can be an important partner moving forward. Yet Pakistan too often turns a blind eye to the cancer of terrorism, and in many cases, Pakistan has contributed to the growth of terrorist groups.
America will not write a blank check for countries that fail to root out the same forces who try every day to kill our people. Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan. It has much more to lose by supporting terrorists. The president has put them on notice.
Finally, the president's strategy for South Asia involves a stronger strategic partnership with India — the world’s largest democracy and a key security and economic partner. India has made important contributions towards Afghanistan’s stability and security, and India has also pledged critical support to Afghanistan’s development needs. Because they directly affect America’s interests, America will continue to work closely with New Delhi on these issues.
President Trump’s strategy for South Asia will undo the failed policies of the past and put the safety and security of the American people first. And with the president’s leadership, with the courage of our armed forces, and with the prayers of our people: America will be stronger, safer and more secure than ever before.