WASHINGTON — Poised to decide whether to surge U.S. troops into Afghanistan, President Trump aims to “fully eliminate” threats to U.S. and allied interests around the world, the White House said Tuesday.
“We need to fully eliminate any threat around the globe, frankly, not just in Afghanistan, that poses a threat to our people and our allies,” press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters at his daily briefing.
The review of America’s Afghanistan strategy is done, and the president will be briefed “soon,” a top aide told Yahoo News. This sets the stage for Trump to decide whether or not to hurl more troops into America’s longest war.
The U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Army Gen. John Nicholson Jr., warned the Senate Armed Services Committee in early February that the war in Afghanistan was in a “stalemate” and that “we have a shortfall of a few thousand” troops.
But the decision — and the White House’s newly expansive language — risk alienating some of the president’s supporters. As candidate, Trump promised an “America First” foreign policy focused on destroying the so-called Islamic State while resisting nation-building entanglements. He repeatedly condemned spending on military interventions overseas as wasting dollars that could better be used to rebuild U.S. infrastructure.
Asked about the potential disconnect, Spicer said Trump’s “priorities remain the same. But he’s going to do what he can to make sure that he protects the country and our people.”
At the same time, Spicer played down speculation that the president could sharply escalate troops numbers above their current level of 8,400. Several news reports have put the potential increase in U.S. forces at 3,000-5,000, with more coming from NATO allies.
“Just because you spend more, throw more people, doesn’t mean you’re doing it in the most effective way,” Spicer said.
“One of the things that he has asked his national security team to do is to actually rethink the strategy. What are we doing to achieve the goals that you are asking about? How do we actually … win? How do we eliminate the threat?” Spicer said.
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