US President Donald Trump said the United States must continue fighting in Afghanistan to avoid the “predictable and unacceptable” results of a rapid withdrawal from the country where the US has been at war for 16 years.
In a prime-time address to the nation on Monday evening – his first as commander-in-chief, Trump said his “original instinct was to pull out”, alluding to his long-expressed view before becoming president that Afghanistan was an unsolvable quagmire requiring US withdrawal.
But since taking office, Trump said, he had determined that withdrawing could create a vacuum that groups such as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) could “instantly fill”.
“I concluded that the security threats we face in Afghanistan and the broader region are immense,” Trump said.
Trump warned that the approach would now be more pragmatic than idealistic. Security assistance to Afghanistan was “not a blank cheque” he said, warning he would not send the military to “construct democracies in faraway lands or create democracies in our own image”.
“We are not nation building again. We are killing terrorists,” he said.