Washington – Connecticut’s Democratic members of Congress are wary as President Donald Trump assumes the mantle of commander-in-chief Monday night, asking the American people to trust him with a new strategy in Afghanistan.
At 9 p.m. Eastern Time, in his first prime-time televised speech since his inauguration, the president is expected to announce the deployment of about 4,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan, where about 8,000 U.S. troops are already stationed. The number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan peaked at about 100,000 during the Obama presidency.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said the president should have a clear strategy about the U.S. goal in Afghanistan before sending in more troops and seek to make the “Afghan government more stable and less corrupt,” and able to fight terrorists with its own military.
“The question is ‘what is the strategy?’” said Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “The number of troops have to be determined by the strategy. Right now there is no strategy.”
Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said he could back the president if he laid down a plan that was limited in scope; coordinated with Pakistan, which has been accused of harboring terrorists; and has a clear goal and exit plan.
“It has to be attached to a strategy or an end game,” Courtney said.
He said “Congress has been sidelined” as the president, who has been subjected to intense criticism for his handling of the violence in Charlottesville, Va., crafted a plan to combat increased Taliban strength at a meeting over the weekend at Camp David.
“Important day spent at Camp David with our very talented Generals and military leaders. Many decisions made, including on Afghanistan,” the president tweeted.
Courtney said the situation in Afghanistan is the latest indication that Congress should approve a new Authorization for the Use of Military Force that would lay out guidelines for the White House’s war-making authority. The last AUMF was approved by Congress after the 9/11 attacks in 2001.
“The Authorization for the Use of Military Force is screaming for an update,” Courtney said.
According to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, the Taliban now holds or dominates 48 of the country’s roughly 400 administrative areas, the most they have held since being ousted from power in 2001.
For years, Trump criticized the U.S. presence in Afghanistan, tweeting that the United States should “get out” of the country and stop building schools and hospitals “for people that hate us.”
As a presidential candidate, Trump it was a “terrible mistake” for the United States to get involved in Afghanistan, but he would leave U.S. troops in that nation “begrudgingly.”
“Believe me, I’m not happy about it,” Trump said on CNN in October of 2016.
Trump’s position continued to evolve and in a debate in Detroit in March of 2016, he said “you have to stay in Afghanistan for a while, because of the fact that you’re right next to Pakistan, which has nuclear weapons, and we have to protect that. Nuclear weapons change the game.”