TRANSCRIPT: Trump remarks on the war in Afghanistan

Aug 22, 2017 5

Thank you very much. Thank you. Please be seated.

Vice President Pence, Secretary of State Tillerson, members of the Cabinet, General Dunford, Deputy Secretary Shanahan, and Colonel Duggan. Most especially, thank you to the men and women of Fort Myer and every member of the United States military at home and abroad.

We send our thoughts and prayers to the families of our brave sailors who were injured and lost after a tragic collision at sea, as well as to those conducting the search and recovery efforts.

I am here tonight to lay out our path forward in Afghanistan and South Asia. But before I provide the details of our new strategy, I want to say a few words to the servicemembers here with us tonight, to those watching from their posts, and to all Americans listening at home.

Since the founding of our republic, our country has produced a special class of heroes whose selflessness, courage, and resolve is unmatched in human history.

American patriots from every generation have given their last breath on the battlefield for our nation and for our freedom. Through their lives — and though their lives were cut short, in their deeds they achieved total immortality.

By following the heroic example of those who fought to preserve our republic, we can find the inspiration our country needs to unify, to heal, and to remain one nation under God.

The men and women of our military operate as one team, with one shared mission, and one shared sense of purpose.

They transcend every line of race, ethnicity, creed, and color to serve together — and sacrifice together — in absolutely perfect cohesion. That is because all servicemembers are brothers and sisters. They’re all part of the same family; it’s called the American family. They take the same oath, fight for the same flag, and live according to the same law. They are bound together by common purpose, mutual trust, and selfless devotion to our nation and to each other.

The soldier understands what we, as a nation, too often forget that a wound inflicted upon a single member of our community is a wound inflicted upon us all. When one part of America hurts, we all hurt. And when one citizen suffers an injustice, we all suffer together.

Loyalty to our nation demands loyalty to one another. Love for America requires love for all of its people. When we open our hearts to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice, no place for bigotry, and no tolerance for hate.

The young men and women we send to fight our wars abroad deserve to return to a country that is not at war with itself at home. We cannot remain a force for peace in the world if we are not at peace with each other.

As we send our bravest to defeat our enemies overseas — and we will always win — let us find the courage to heal our divisions within. Let us make a simple promise to the men and women we ask to fight in our name that, when they return home from battle, they will find a country that has renewed the sacred bonds of love and loyalty that unite us together as one.

Thanks to the vigilance and skill of the American military and of our many allies throughout the world, horrors on the scale of September 11th — and nobody can ever forget that — have not been repeated on our shores.

But we must also acknowledge the reality I am here to talk about tonight:  that nearly 16 years after September 11th attacks, after the extraordinary sacrifice of blood and treasure, the American people are weary of war without victory. Nowhere is this more evident than with the war in Afghanistan, the longest war in American history — 17 years.

I share the American people’s frustration. I also share their frustration over a foreign policy that has spent too much time, energy, money, and most importantly lives, trying to rebuild countries in our own image, instead of pursuing our security interests above all other considerations.

That is why, shortly after my inauguration, I directed Secretary of Defense Mattis and my national security team to undertake a comprehensive review of all strategic options in Afghanistan and South Asia.

My original instinct was to pull out — and, historically, I like following my instincts. But all my life I’ve heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office; in other words, when you’re President of the United States. So I studied Afghanistan in great detail and from every conceivable angle.

After many meetings, over many months, we held our final meeting last Friday at Camp David, with my Cabinet and generals, to complete our strategy. I arrived at three fundamental conclusions about America’s core interests in Afghanistan.

First, our nation must seek an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the tremendous sacrifices that have been made, especially the sacrifices of lives. The men and women who serve our nation in combat deserve a plan for victory. They deserve the tools they need, and the trust they have earned, to fight and to win.

Second, the consequences of a rapid exit are both predictable and unacceptable. 9/11, the worst terrorist attack in our history, was planned and directed from Afghanistan because that country was ruled by a government that gave comfort and shelter to terrorists. A hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum that terrorists, including ISIS and al Qaeda, would instantly fill, just as happened before September 11th.

And, as we know, in 2011, America hastily and mistakenly withdrew from Iraq. As a result, our hard-won gains slipped back into the hands of terrorist enemies. Our soldiers watched as cities they had fought for, and bled to liberate, and won, were occupied by a terrorist group called ISIS. The vacuum we created by leaving too soon gave safe haven for ISIS to spread, to grow, recruit, and launch attacks. We cannot repeat in Afghanistan the mistake our leaders made in Iraq.

Third and finally, I concluded that the security threats we face in Afghanistan and the broader region are immense. Today, 20 U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organizations are active in Afghanistan and Pakistan — the highest concentration in any region anywhere in the world.

For its part, Pakistan often gives safe haven to agents of chaos, violence, and terror. The threat is worse because Pakistan and India are two nuclear-armed states whose tense relations threaten to spiral into conflict. And that could happen.

No one denies that we have inherited a challenging and troubling situation in Afghanistan and South Asia, but we do not have the luxury of going back in time and making different or better decisions. When I became President, I was given a bad and very complex hand, but I fully knew what I was getting into:  big and intricate problems. But, one way or another, these problems will be solved — I’m a problem solver — and, in the end, we will win.

We must address the reality of the world as it exists right now — the threats we face, and the confronting of all of the problems of today, and extremely predictable consequences of a hasty withdrawal.

We need look no further than last week’s vile, vicious attack in Barcelona to understand that terror groups will stop at nothing to commit the mass murder of innocent men, women and children. You saw it for yourself. Horrible.

As I outlined in my speech in Saudi Arabia three months ago, America and our partners are committed to stripping terrorists of their territory, cutting off their funding, and exposing the false allure of their evil ideology.

Terrorists who slaughter innocent people will find no glory in this life or the next. They are nothing but thugs, and criminals, and predators, and — that’s right — losers. Working alongside our allies, we will break their will, dry up their recruitment, keep them from crossing our borders, and yes, we will defeat them, and we will defeat them handily.

In Afghanistan and Pakistan, America’s interests are clear: We must stop the resurgence of safe havens that enable terrorists to threaten America, and we must prevent nuclear weapons and materials from coming into the hands of terrorists and being used against us, or anywhere in the world for that matter.

But to prosecute this war, we will learn from history. As a result of our comprehensive review, American strategy in Afghanistan and South Asia will change dramatically in the following ways:

A core pillar of our new strategy is a shift from a time-based approach to one based on conditions. I’ve said it many times how counterproductive it is for the United States to announce in advance the dates we intend to begin, or end, military options. We will not talk about numbers of troops or our plans for further military activities.

Conditions on the ground — not arbitrary timetables — will guide our strategy from now on. America’s enemies must never know our plans or believe they can wait us out. I will not say when we are going to attack, but attack we will.

Another fundamental pillar of our new strategy is the integration of all instruments of American power — diplomatic, economic, and military — toward a successful outcome.

Someday, after an effective military effort, perhaps it will be possible to have a political settlement that includes elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan, but nobody knows if or when that will ever happen. America will continue its support for the Afghan government and the Afghan military as they confront the Taliban in the field.

Ultimately, it is up to the people of Afghanistan to take ownership of their future, to govern their society, and to achieve an everlasting peace. We are a partner and a friend, but we will not dictate to the Afghan people how to live, or how to govern their own complex society. We are not nation-building again. We are killing terrorists.

The next pillar of our new strategy is to change the approach and how to deal with Pakistan. We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations, the Taliban, and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond. Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan. It has much to lose by continuing to harbor criminals and terrorists.

In the past, Pakistan has been a valued partner. Our militaries have worked together against common enemies. The Pakistani people have suffered greatly from terrorism and extremism. We recognize those contributions and those sacrifices.

But Pakistan has also sheltered the same organizations that try every single day to kill our people. We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting. But that will have to change, and that will change immediately. No partnership can survive a country’s harboring of militants and terrorists who target U.S. servicemembers and officials. It is time for Pakistan to demonstrate its commitment to civilization, order, and to peace.

Another critical part of the South Asia strategy for America is to further develop its strategic partnership with India — the world’s largest democracy and a key security and economic partner of the United States.

We appreciate India’s important contributions to stability in Afghanistan, but India makes billions of dollars in trade with the United States, and we want them to help us more with Afghanistan, especially in the area of economic assistance and development. We are committed to pursuing our shared objectives for peace and security in South Asia and the broader Indo-Pacific region.

Finally, my administration will ensure that you, the brave defenders of the American people, will have the necessary tools and rules of engagement to make this strategy work, and work effectively and work quickly.

I have already lifted restrictions the previous administration placed on our warfighters that prevented the Secretary of Defense and our commanders in the field from fully and swiftly waging battle against the enemy.

Micromanagement from Washington, D.C., does not win battles. They are won in the field drawing upon the judgment and expertise of wartime commanders and frontline soldiers acting in real time, with real authority, and with a clear mission to defeat the enemy.

That’s why we will also expand authority for American armed forces to target the terrorist and criminal networks that sow violence and chaos throughout Afghanistan.

These killers need to know they have nowhere to hide; that no place is beyond the reach of American might and Americans arms. Retribution will be fast and powerful.

As we lift restrictions and expand authorities in the field, we are already seeing dramatic results in the campaign to defeat ISIS, including the liberation of Mosul in Iraq.

Since my inauguration, we have achieved record-breaking success in that regard. We will also maximize sanctions and other financial and law enforcement actions against these networks to eliminate their ability to export terror. When America commits its warriors to battle, we must ensure they have every weapon to apply swift, decisive, and overwhelming force.

Our troops will fight to win. We will fight to win. From now on, victory will have a clear definition:  attacking our enemies, obliterating ISIS, crushing al Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan, and stopping mass terror attacks against America before they emerge.

We will ask our NATO allies and global partners to support our new strategy with additional troop and funding increases in line with our own. We are confident they will. Since taking office, I have made clear that our allies and partners must contribute much more money to our collective defense, and they have done so.

In this struggle, the heaviest burden will continue to be borne by the good people of Afghanistan and their courageous armed forces. As the prime minister of Afghanistan has promised, we are going to participate in economic development to help defray the cost of this war to us.

Afghanistan is fighting to defend and secure their country against the same enemies who threaten us. The stronger the Afghan security forces become, the less we will have to do. Afghans will secure and build their own nation and define their own future. We want them to succeed.

But we will no longer use American military might to construct democracies in faraway lands, or try to rebuild other countries in our own image. Those days are now over. Instead, we will work with allies and partners to protect our shared interests. We are not asking others to change their way of life, but to pursue common goals that allow our children to live better and safer lives. This principled realism will guide our decisions moving forward.

Military power alone will not bring peace to Afghanistan or stop the terrorist threat arising in that country. But strategically applied force aims to create the conditions for a political process to achieve a lasting peace.

America will work with the Afghan government as long as we see determination and progress. However, our commitment is not unlimited, and our support is not a blank check. The government of Afghanistan must carry their share of the military, political, and economic burden. The American people expect to see real reforms, real progress, and real results. Our patience is not unlimited. We will keep our eyes wide open.

In abiding by the oath I took on January 20th, I will remain steadfast in protecting American lives and American interests. In this effort, we will make common cause with any nation that chooses to stand and fight alongside us against this global threat. Terrorists take heed:  America will never let up until you are dealt a lasting defeat.

Under my administration, many billions of dollars more is being spent on our military. And this includes vast amounts being spent on our nuclear arsenal and missile defense.

In every generation, we have faced down evil, and we have always prevailed. We prevailed because we know who we are and what we are fighting for.

Not far from where we are gathered tonight, hundreds of thousands of America’s greatest patriots lay in eternal rest at Arlington National Cemetery. There is more courage, sacrifice, and love in those hallowed grounds than in any other spot on the face of the Earth.

Many of those who have fought and died in Afghanistan enlisted in the months after September 11th, 2001. They volunteered for a simple reason:  They loved America, and they were determined to protect her.

Now we must secure the cause for which they gave their lives. We must unite to defend America from its enemies abroad. We must restore the bonds of loyalty among our citizens at home, and we must achieve an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the enormous price that so many have paid.

Our actions, and in the months to come, all of them will honor the sacrifice of every fallen hero, every family who lost a loved one, and every wounded warrior who shed their blood in defense of our great nation. With our resolve, we will ensure that your service and that your families will bring about the defeat of our enemies and the arrival of peace.

We will push onward to victory with power in our hearts, courage in our souls, and everlasting pride in each and every one of you.

Thank you. May God bless our military. And may God bless the United States of America. Thank you very much. Thank you.

Lindsey Graham proud of Trump's decision: 'The gloves are off inside of Afghanistan'

Aug 21, 2017 7

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., offered full-throated praise for America’s comprehensive new strategy of achieving a “lasting peace” in Afghanistan, after President Trump’s address to the nation Monday night.

“I’m proud, I’m relieved. I’m proud of the fact that President Trump made a national security decision, not a political decision. I’m proud of the fact that he listened to the generals and most proud of the fact that he shows the will to stand up to radical Islam. I’m relieved that he did not take the advice to withdraw which would’ve been disastrous, or create a mercenary army. So I’m very pleased, very thoughtful, very inspiring speech, and I can assure you, a lot of people in Congress will be behind the president,” Graham told Fox News.

During a televised national address in front of troops at Fort Myer, Va., Trump rejected what he called “arbitrary timetables” for the U.S. troop presence. The president also said he would ratchet up pressure on Pakistan to stop harboring militants.

“We are not nation-building again,” Trump said. “We are killing terrorists.”

“So the game is changed with Pakistan, the gloves are off inside of Afghanistan. We need a diplomatic surge, India can be very helpful, but I am very pleased with this plan, and I’m very proud of my president,” said Graham, whose disagreements with Trump boiled over last week regarding the president’s reaction to the violence in Charlottesville, Va.

Graham also was critical of Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who has opposed a troop surge in Afghanistan.

WAVE OF POLITICAL REACTION TO TRUMP ADDRESS

“I think he’s actually a worse ‘general’ than Obama, believe it or not. ‘General’ Paul has been wrong about everything in this war. It’s that kind of thinking that got us into 9/11. You may be tired of fighting the terrorists, but they’re not tired of fighting you. On September 10, 2001, we did it the Rand Paul way: we didn’t have one soldier in Afghanistan, we didn’t have an embassy, we didn’t have a dime of aid going to Afghanistan, and they hit us anyway,” he said.

Graham added: “I will fight Senator Paul tooth and nail to make sure that we don’t lose in Afghanistan like we did in Iraq. It’s just exactly what President Obama did in Iraq, which is to leave against sound military advice.”

Many Democrats slammed the president’s speech. 

“The President’s announcement is low on details but raises serious questions. When President Trump says there will be no ceiling on the number of troops and no timeline for withdrawal, he is declaring an open-ended commitment of American lives with no accountability to the American people,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said.

“We cannot commit more troops and taxpayer dollars to this war until we have a clear exit strategy. This is a reversal from the President’s years of criticizing this war – both as a private citizen and a candidate. Tonight’s address left us with nothing more than unanswered questions,” Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, added.

Trump is now the third commander-in-chief to attempt to bring stability to the war-torn country and seek a U.S. victory in what is now America’s longest war.

Graham called on the nation’s elected officials to stand with Trump: “To my colleagues in Congress, you will own a no vote. The next 9/11 will be your fault, not President Trump’s fault, if you shoot down this plan because this is a solid plan.”

Trump's Afghanistan address generates wave of political reaction

Aug 21, 2017 8

Reaction to President Donald Trump’s announcement on Monday on his path forward in Afghanistan varied significantly, as lawmakers and members of the Trump administration expressed their thoughts on the news.

“Together, we will assist the Afghan Security forces to destroy the terrorist hub,” Defense Secretary James Mattis said.

“The president has provided his strategic guidance for the South Asia strategy following a rigorous interagency review. I have directed the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to make preparations to carry out the president’s strategy. I will be in consultation with the Secretary General of NATO and our allies—several of which have also committed to increasing their troop numbers.”

Speaking from Fort Myer in Arlington, Virginia, the president addressed U.S. troops and the nation about the war in Afghanistan. During the address, Trump asked both India and Pakistan to help to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table. Trump also said that he would hold Pakistan accountable for attacks in its country and for any continued support of the Taliban.

“We will not talk about numbers of troops,” Trump said of his new policy. “Conditions on the ground, not arbitrary timetables, will guide the U.S.”

“There is no substitute for American leadership,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said. “I applaud the Trump Administration for refocusing our military efforts and supporting our brave warfighters by laying out a strategy that will help produce a more secure, stable, and sovereign Afghanistan.”

“I assure you a lot of people in Congress will be behind the president,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said moments after the announcement. “The game has changed with Pakistan, the gloves are off in Afghanistan. I am very pleased with this plan and I am very proud of our president.”

“I commend President Trump for taking a big step in the right direction with the new strategy for Afghanistan,” said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. “The unfortunate truth is that this strategy is long overdue, and in the interim, the Taliban has made dangerous inroads. Nevertheless, I believe the President is now moving us well beyond the prior administration’s failed strategy of merely postponing defeat.”

But not everyone backed the idea of continuing efforts in the country.

“Tonight, the President said he knew what he was getting into and had a plan to go forward. Clearly, he did not,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi stated. “The President’s announcement is low on details but raises serious questions.  When President Trump says there will be no ceiling on the number of troops and no timeline for withdrawal, he is declaring an open-ended commitment of American lives with no accountability to the American people.”

“Our military men and women, and their families, have given so much already,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio. “Tonight, President Trump is asking even more of them without a plan to transfer power to the Afghan government or a plan to leave the country.

“A commitment to ‘win’ is not a clear strategy, and our troops on the ground in Afghanistan deserve more. Let me be clear – we cannot commit more troops and taxpayer dollars to this war until we have a clear exit strategy. This is a reversal from the President’s years of criticizing this war – both as a private citizen and a candidate. Tonight’s address left us with nothing more than unanswered questions.”

“The mission in Afghanistan has lost its purpose and I think it is a terrible idea to send any more troops into that war,” Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said in a statement prior to Trump’s announcement.

“The United States should continue to support the Afghan government through our Strategic Partnership Agreement by providing training and funds that will help the Afghans maintain control of major population centers and prevent a Taliban victory,” Ohio Governor John Kasich said.

“The time has come, however, for us to forge an agreement with all of the regional players that will allow the United States to draw down forces and bring our troops back home without reigniting civil war in that country,” the Republican governor added.

Afghanistan speech: Trump says nation 'needs to unify,' honors America's 'heroes'

Aug 21, 2017 7

President Trump touted the United States military on Monday night as a “special class of heroes” who are “unmatched in history,” at the top of his address slated to unveil the administration’s Afghanistan policy.

After more than a week of stark racial and cultural divide, the president opened his address to an audience of more than 2,000 at Fort Myer Army Base in Arlington, Va., with a softer tone, calling for unity.

“Our country needs to unify, to heal and to remain one nation under God. The men and women of our military operate as one team with one shared mission and one shared sense of purpose,” the president said. “They transcend every line of race, ethnicity, creed and color to serve together and sacrifice together in absolutely perfect cohesion.”

The president’s remarks came nine days after the violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., where a counter-protester was killed in a car attack. The president took heat for repeatedly blaming “both sides” for the clashes at the rally that featured swastikas and neo-Nazi garb and chants, and counter-protesters.

“All service members are brothers and sisters, all part of the same family – the American family,” Trump said. “They take the same oath, fight for the same flag, and live according to the same law. They are bound together by common purpose, mutual trust and selfless devotion to our nation and to each other.”

The president also came under fire last month after tweeting his intention to ban transgender people from serving in the U.S. military in any capacity.

But Monday evening, the president spoke in a unifying voice, saying that “when we open our hearts to patriotism, there is no place for bigotry and no tolerance for hate.”

“When one part of America hurts, we all hurt. And when all citizens suffer an injustice, we all suffer together,” Trump said. “Loyalty to our nation demands loyalty to each other. Love to America requires love for all of its people.”

Brooke Singman is a Reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter at @brookefoxnews.

Elections worker in North Carolina charged with changing 2016 vote totals

Aug 21, 2017 6

A former elections worker in North Carolina was indicted Monday by a Durham County grand jury for mishandling provisional ballot results during the March 2016 primary election.

Richard Robert Rawling, 59, of Cary, was charged on the counts of obstruction of justice — a felony — and failure to discharge a duty of his office — a misdemeanor.

An investigation of the state’s elections board determined Rawling ran or ordered subordinates to run provisional ballots through tabulators more than once and made manual changes to the ballot count so the results of the provisional canvass would match the number of approved provisional ballots.

Elections board officials discovered the problem during a routine audit of primary results in April 2016.

When Durham County elections officials notified State Board investigators about the issue in early April 2016, the State Board office opened an investigation. In October 2016, investigators provided a full report to the Durham County district attorney for possible prosecution.

According to the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement, Rawling’s actions were committed to avoid having to report a discrepancy in the number of provisional ballots in possession of the Board of Elections and the number counted on canvass day.

Unlike regular ballots, provisional ballots aren’t counted at a polling place on Election Day. Provisional ballots are issued when there is a question about a voter’s eligibility. They are collected at polling places and then taken to county elections boards to determine if they should be counted.

“The State Board’s top priority is ensuring the integrity of elections so voters have confidence in the process,” Kim Westbrook Strach, executive director of the State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement, said in a statement. “We will continue to hold accountable elections workers and voters who violate election laws.”

Rawling worked for the Durham County Board of Elections during the March 15 primary, but resigned later that month in 2016.

Afghanistan speech: Trump rejects ‘timetables,’ ups pressure on Pakistan, refocuses on ‘killing terrorists’

Aug 21, 2017 6

President Trump outlined a comprehensive new strategy Monday night for achieving a “lasting peace” in Afghanistan – rejecting what he called “arbitrary timetables” for the U.S. troop presence, ratcheting up pressure on Pakistan to stop harboring militants and vowing to refocus the mission on “killing terrorists,” not nation-building.

The president said he will not openly discuss troop numbers, though a senior U.S. official confirmed to Fox News ahead of his address that he’s signed off on sending an additional 4,000 troops.

The president spoke to troops at Fort Myer, Va., in a televised national address.

He made clear he will not discuss particulars of military activities but vowed the military would have “the necessary tools and rules of engagement” to make the strategy in Afghanistan effective.

“We are not nation-building again,” Trump said. “We are killing terrorists.”

Trump is now the third commander-in-chief to attempt to bring stability to the war-torn country and seek a U.S. victory in what is now America’s longest war.

The president began his address with words of unity, after a week of political turbulence and racial and cultural divide after attacks in Charlottesville, Va.

“A wound inflicted upon a single member of our community, is a wound inflicted upon us all. When one part of America hurts, we all hurt. And when one citizen suffers an injustice, we all suffer together,” the president began. “Loyalty to our nation demands loyalty to one another. Love for America requires love for all of its people. We cannot remain a force for peace in the world if we are not at peace with each other.”
The president shifted to a decisive military strategy, but acknowledged his shifting stance on military involvement in the region. 

 He said his “original instinct” was to pull out of the warzone. But he said he studied the issue and held “many meetings, over many months” with the Cabinet and generals to complete the new military plan.

He made clear Monday night he will not allow a hasty withdrawal from the country.

“America’s enemies will never know our plans. I will not say when we are going to attack, but attack we will,” Trump warned, as he outlined key “pillars” to the nation’s new approach to America’s longest war, noting that the U.S. must “change the approach” in dealing with Pakistan.

Nearly 16 years after the 9/11 terror attacks, which first drew U.S. forces into Afghanistan, the local government controls just half the country – beset by the Taliban insurgency and terrorist factions. An Islamic State affiliate has been hit hard, but continues to attempt major attacks in the region.

Vice President Mike Pence spoke with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani earlier Monday ahead of the president’s remarks.

Ahead of his primetime address, Fox News learned that the president had signed off on sending an additional 4,000 troops to Afghanistan, to the current estimated 8,400 U.S. troops already stationed in the region.

Trump’s stance on Afghanistan has shifted over the years. Prior to his candidacy, Trump called for U.S. troops to “leave Afghanistan immediately” and “rebuild the US first” on Twitter in 2013, even agreeing with President Barack Obama on withdrawing troops.

But since taking office, Trump has been stepping up military action in Afghanistan. The Trump administration has ramped up airstrikes in the region with 1,984 U.S. bombs dropped in Afghanistan between January and July of this year, compared to 705 dropped during the same time period in 2016 – that’s a 181 percent increase, according to U.S. Air Force data.

The president’s address comes after he met with top national security advisers last week at Camp David, the presidential retreat outside of Washington, D.C. Following that meeting, Trump tweeted that “many decisions” were made at Camp David, “including on Afghanistan.” 

Politically speaking, the president also is seeking a reset after what was perhaps the rockiest stretch of his presidency thus far, one that saw multiple staff shakeups and an all-consuming controversy last week over his response to the violence in Charlottesville. The president took heat for repeatedly blaming “both sides” for the clashes at a white supremacist rally, where a counter-protester was killed in a car attack. The response was met with a bipartisan rebuke from members of Congress and a wave of resignations from various corporate and other advisory boards.

 The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Brooke Singman is a Reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter at @brookefoxnews.

Trump approves sending 4,000 more troops to Afghanistan, senior official says

Aug 21, 2017 14

President Trump has signed off on sending an additional 4,000 troops to Afghanistan, ahead of his address to the nation Monday night, Fox News has learned.

Trump is set to unveil his strategy for Afghanistan, becoming the third commander-in-chief to attempt to stabilize the war-torn country and forge a victory in what is now America’s longest war.

The speech is scheduled for 9 p.m. EDT Monday. The president will deliver the nationally televised address to troops stationed at the Army’s Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, located next to Arlington National Cemetery.

Trump tweeted Saturday that he had reached a decision on the way forward, after meeting to review options with top advisers at Camp David. While the president has not revealed the contours of his plan, associates expect he will keep U.S. troops in the country and possibly approve sending thousands more. 

TRUMP’S AFGHANISTAN ADDRESS: WHAT TO WATCH FOR

“I think he is going to give [his generals] a chance to prove what they want and their strategy,” former Trump deputy campaign manager David Bossie told “Fox & Friends,” noting that Trump can adjust the plan in the future. 

The stakes are high. Some 16 years after the 9/11 terror attacks, which first drew U.S. forces into Afghanistan, the local government controls just half the country – beset by the Taliban insurgency and terrorist factions. An Islamic State affiliate has been hit hard but continues to attempt major attacks.

Politically speaking, Trump also is trying to hit reset after perhaps the rockiest stretch of his presidency, one that saw multiple staff shakeups and an all-consuming controversy last week over his response to the violence in Charlottesville. The president took heat for repeatedly blaming “both sides” for the clashes at a white supremacist rally, where a counter-protester was killed in a car attack. The response was met with a bipartisan rebuke from members of Congress and a wave of resignations from various corporate and other advisory boards.

Refocusing on national security, Trump is now faced with one of the most complex and difficult military challenges.

In Afghanistan, Gen. John Nicholson’s comments suggested the Pentagon may have won its argument that the U.S. military must remain engaged in order to ensure that terrorists aren’t again able to threaten the U.S. from havens inside Afghanistan.

“I assure you we are with you in this fight. We are with you and we will stay with you,” Nicholson said during a ceremony at Camp Morehead, a training base for Afghan commandoes southeast of Kabul.

The Pentagon was awaiting a final announcement by Trump on a proposal to send in nearly 4,000 more U.S. troops, on top of the 8,400 in the country. The added forces would increase training and advising of the Afghan forces and bolster counterterrorism operations against the Taliban and the Islamic State affiliate trying to gain a foothold in the country.

The administration had been at odds for months over how to craft a new Afghan war strategy.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who visited Afghanistan over the weekend, declared himself satisfied with how the administration had formulated its new strategy. But he refused to discuss details before Trump’s announcement.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich predicted Monday on “Fox & Friends” that Trump would opt to send additional troops, putting an emphasis on training the Afghan military.

“I think in the long run that will be the right strategy,” Gingrich said.

Fox News’ Jennifer Griffing and the Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Chuck Todd under fire for 'softball' interviews with Antifa ally

Aug 21, 2017 17

Anchor Chuck Todd is under fire for his “softball” treatment of an Antifa sympathizer on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” with conservative media watchdog Brent Bozell accusing him of allowing a “radical to promote domestic terrorism with little push back.”

Todd, following a similar interview on his daily MSNBC show last week, hosted a brief debate Sunday on the radical left-wing group’s violent tactics. Speaking in support of Antifa was Dartmouth professor Mark Bray, who justified what he described as the group’s “self-defense” tactics as a “legitimate response to white supremacist and neo-Nazi violence.”

The group, however, has a history of attacking not just neo-Nazis but conservative and pro-Trump crowds in general. Its allies infamously clashed with Trump supporters in a melee earlier this year in Berkeley, Calif., leading to the cancellation of a Breitbart editor’s speech.

In that riot, protesters broke windows, threw smoke bombs and started a bonfire outside the building that would have hosted the speech.

Bozell, founder of the Media Research Center, blasted Todd and NBC for giving a platform for such extremist groups as Antifa. 

He said in a statement posted to Twitter:

“Violent leftists have broken into the mainstream and Chuck Todd is guilty of aiding and abetting. It is abhorrent that NBC and Todd believe it acceptable to normalize extremist groups like Antifa which use terror to silence their opposition.

“After last Wednesday’s softball interview, Chuck Todd had the opportunity to correct his mistake but instead chose to again allow a radical to promote domestic terrorism with little push back.

“Can you imagine Chuck Todd inviting a member of a militant right-wing group on his show to rationalize violence against the left? NBC must cease giving legitimacy to supporters of this violent left-wing movement immediately.” 

PETITION URGES TERROR LABEL FOR ANTIFA

Fox News has reached out to NBC for comment.

Todd’s own Twitter feed reflected similar complaints, with critics accusing the show of giving a platform to the promotion of violence. Todd, in introducing Bray, did describe him as part of a “very small minority who is defending the idea of violence.”

Antifa is back in the spotlight after President Trump criticized “both sides” for the clashes in Charlottesville two weekends ago, when a counter-protester at a white supremacist rally was killed in a car attack. Trump was hammered for his comments and accused of equating neo-Nazis with those who would protest them.

But Antifa’s tactics at other rallies have faced increased scrutiny, with critics concerned they could beget more violence.  

On Todd’s show, that argument was made forcefully by Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“I think it’s a spectacularly bad idea to give one group of people the right to silence another group of people,” Cohen said.

Bray, though, said, “There’s a big difference between confronting fascism and confronting other forms of violence.”

Todd gently pushed back, saying some critics claim Antifa is against free speech, bordering on censorship.

“Well, let’s be clear that Antifa are not calling on the government to censor anyone,” Bray said. “… And so the idea is the real enemies of free speech are fascists.”

A report in Bozell’s NewsBusters noted that Todd did not press Bray on Antifa’s broad definition of fascists.

The report said: “There was no clarification from Todd of how Antifa’s definition of ‘fascist’ only applies to those who don’t hold liberal beliefs. Their definition blankets nearly everyone on the right and now covers those on the left who question their tactics of shutting down free speech.”

Trump watches eclipse from White House

Aug 21, 2017 17

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump squinted and pointed skyward before donning protective glasses to take in the solar eclipse at the White House.

The president was joined by wife Melania, son Barron and top aides Monday afternoon to view the spectacle from the portico overlooking the South Lawn. The White House originally said Trump would watch from the second-floor Truman balcony.

Shortly after walking outside, the president looked up at the sky, squinted and pointed upward.

“Don’t look,” one staffer yelled from the White House lawn.

Trump then donned the protective eyewear. Asked about the view, Trump gave a thumbs up.

This is the first total solar eclipse to sweep the United States from coast to coast in nearly a century, although I Washington experienced about 80 percent coverage of the sun.