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Afghanistan: Trump plans to adopt policies he criticised

Credit: PA

For months, no one has been able to answer the simple question: What is America's strategy in Afghanistan?

In a prime-time TV speech at a military base outside of Washington, President Trump last night tried to impose his version of strategic clarity.

"We are not nation-building again. We are killing terrorists."

This was a leader who read carefully from an Autocue - too carefully, suggesting that he was simply reading someone else's words - as he performed the greatest reversal so far of his young and wild Presidency.

For years he has mocked Obama's tactics in Afghanistan. By Twitter, four years ago, he advocated a simple withdrawal from America's longest war.

This is what Trump tweeted in November 2013: “We have wasted an enormous amount of blood and treasure in Afghanistan. Their government has zero appreciation. Let’s get out!”

And for good measure, he drove home the message with this policy prescription:

“Let’s get out of Afghanistan. Our troops are being killed by the Afghanis we train and we waste billions there. Nonsense! Rebuild the USA.”

Yet - trying to justify it as the wisdom that comes with the responsibility of his office - Trump last night abandoned all of that and advocated the same strategy in Afghanistan that his predecessor adopted. So much for the non-interventionist. Trump now owns the US war in Afghanistan.

He now plans to adopt exactly the policies he criticised. Add incremental pressure to the battlefield with a limited troop reinforcement; pressure Pakistan; leave the door open to a negotiation with the Taliban.

None of this will please his core supporters, many of whom are sick and tired - understandably so - of a 16-year-old, trillion dollar war that is slowly being lost.

That's why today President Trump will visit Phoenix, Arizona, and hold a campaign style rally. Last night he pleased the Generals; tonight he must placate the isolationists.

Of course it's an impossible balancing act. But that's the nature of a chaotic Administration that is besieged by turf warfare and policy rifts.