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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Afghan war: Another extension of longtime policies?

U.S. forces and Afghan security police in Asad

U.S. forces and Afghan security police in Asad Khil, Afghanistan, April 17, 2017. Photo Credit: AP

President Donald Trump’s purportedly new approach to Afghanistan instantly sounded to some like the old approach.

Part of his fan base had hoped Trump would follow through Monday on his “America First” slogan.

For example, he said four years ago: “We have wasted an enormous amount of blood and treasure in Afghanistan. Their government has zero appreciation. Let’s get out!”

But a number of Washington insiders expressed relief and encouragement when Trump in a national address scrambled away from his past position.

These included Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), previously a target of Trump’s public abuse.

“The new Afghan strategy — based on the conditions on ground not on arbitrary numbers and timelines — is the right approach,” Rubio said.

So far, the Trump strategy appears to call for a surge of 4,000 more troops to join the 8,500 American military already there.

Since taking office, the Trump administration has more or less conformed a number of its foreign policies to the mainstream thinking of both major parties.

While campaigning, Trump suggested he’d give less reflexive support to NATO. No big break has occurred there.

Trump signed new sanctions on Russia served up by the Congress, even though he grumbled about it afterward.

Trump still attacks the Obama administration’s Iran nuclear deal. But U.S. officials report its terms so far have been kept.

The rhetoric has gotten hotter on North Korea. But whether and how the rogue-state standoff has shifted remains a question.

Trump also backed off his campaign promise to label China a currency manipulator.

One thing that has changed is the tone of comments from different ideological factions of the Republican Party and the political right.

Recently dumped Trump adviser Steve Bannon’s Breitbart News website described the Republican president as echoing predecessor Barack Obama, who said in 2009 that the days of issuing “blank checks” to the Afghans were over.

Conservative pundit Laura Ingraham asked of the “new” Afghan policy: “Who’s going to pay for it? What is our measure of success? We didn’t win with 100,000 troops. How will we win with 4,000 more?”

One fan of the speech, however, was current Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. He told troops in southern Kandahar it showed the United States is “with us, without any time limit.”

His message to the Taliban: “You cannot win this war.”

And on it goes.


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