Pres. Trump’s speech on Afghanistan: The Essential Points

Here are the essentials of Trump’s Afghanistan policy 

US policy toward Afghanistan must be considered as part of an overall regional approach, worked out after a major policy review by the Trump administration’s national security team

  • It was striking how little information leaked prior to Trump’s prime-time address. The White House staff was very disciplined, a sharp contrast to previous behavior, when internal opponents advanced their position anonymously in the press.

The US is staying in Afghanistan and recommitted to the fight.

We are not revealing operational details, beyond implying that it will not involve large numbers of US troops

We’re relying ultimately on the Afghans themselves, not on US troops

We’ve rejected the trial balloon of a US mercenary army (implied but not stated explicitly in the speech)

We’ve put Pakistan on notice that their territory cannot be a safe haven for Islamic networks that kill Americans or attack US-supported forces in Afghanistan

  • The implication is that Pakistan must deal with these problems or the US will (a dangerous possibility in terms of bilateral relations)
  • Trump’s speech clearly positioned the Afghanistan fight as part of a regional strategy for South Asia.
  • The outreach to India was part of that and will undoubtedly scare Pakistan, which will be split internally on this and may reach out to China (at great risk)

We are changing our troops’ rules of engagement; instead of tight restraints, the new rule is “kill the bastards”

No more nation building. America’s only goal is security, for the US and US interests (including our allies).

To the extent that anyone speaks of a “Trump doctrine,” it will be:

Kill the bad guys, rely heavily on local partners, hold them accountable, and don’t do nation building.

What outcome does Trump envision, if his policy works?

Trump gave a hint of the end-state he wanted. At this stage, he was wise not to spell it out in more detail.

He wants a political solution. The implication is that the US will not put in enough resources to win unilaterally on the battlefield.

His implicit goal, then, is not only to keep the Taliban (and their Pakistani allies) from winning but to convince them that they cannot simply outlast the US and thus win a war of attrition.

Trump explicitly said the political solution could include some elements of the Taliban, as long as that end-state was stable and would not lead to attacks on the US or US interests. Clearly, he thinks that will be possible only if the Taliban don’t think they cannot win unilaterally, or cannot win at a tolerable cost.

For all Trump’s talk about “winning,” this is really a political compromise, made possible by greater success on the battlefield.


Trump’s initial comments voiced a hope that a divided America could come together, clearly a reference to Charlottesville and its aftermath.

After that, his speech was very much directed at the military men and women in the audience and offered them strong support.

Trump’s comments that he initially wanted to pull out were not so much narcissism (as is usually the case with him) and more an attempt to explain to a war-weary nation why it made sense to recommit to the fight there.

The speech was filled with sharp criticism of the Obama administration’s strategy, without specifically naming Obama.


Hat tip to David Nix for asking about Trump’s vision for an end-state

ZipDialog Roundup for Thursday, August 17….Meanwhile, in other news

Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
Linked articles in bold purple

◆ Now that the aftermath of the Charlottesville terror has formed a clear pattern, ZipDialog will feature some other news –news that has been understandably buried by our country’s focus on this tragic issue

China mocks  India in tense border standoff in Himalayan Mountains (Newsweek)

China’s state-controlled news agency published an English-language video called the “7 Sins of India” that Indian newspapers have called racist.

Comment: China’s aggressive policies have put it in conflict with most of its neighbors, inadvertently creating a ring of cooperating adversaries, led, of course, by the US.

Turkey continues to slide toward an Islamist, personalistic dictatorship led by Erdogan.

It is steadily cracking down on dissent, eliminating any chance of closer relations with Europe, much less its ambitious goal of EU membership.

It began the EU membership process in 1987, and it is further away today than three decades ago.

Turkey says it wants to join the EU, but has no intention of complying with membership rules.

The EU says it wants Turkey to join, but is fully aware that it does not qualify.

Turkey pushes forward in the hope that the EU might someday change its rules; the EU pushes forward in the hope that Turkey might someday qualify.

Neither will happen. –Burak Bekdil, for Begin-Sadat Center (link here)

University responds to planned free-speech panel by canceling it (Daily Caller)

The university is one of Canada’s best-known: Ryerson.

The reason, a professor who advocates free speech would be coming, she was (falsely) attacked as a “Nazi” by the well-organized left, and the university buckled, citing “safety concerns.”

“[Progressive activists] were calling me a Nazi, a fascist, and an anti-Semite,” Dr. Gad Saad, a Concordia University marketing professor and one of the panelists, [said]. “I’m Jewish. So, they’ve lost the plot. It’s a form of lunacy that’s difficult to diagnose.”  –Daily Caller

Comment: The heckler’s veto is becoming a “threatened riot” veto.

When universities cannot hold legitimate debates about free speech on campus, the world of higher education is profoundly threatened.

Hamas, known for its suicide attacks, is hit by one. (Washington Post)

The bomber was sneaking in from Egypt’s Sinai, an area filled with jihadis, including the Islamic State.

It was the first time Hamas itself as been struck.

Comment: They did not appreciate the irony.

 Lots of Democrats want to run in 2018. That’s a good sign for the party says 538 blog (538 blog)

Their statistics show a positive correlation between the party’s overall success and these early signals.



ZipDialog Roundup for Monday, June 26

Articles chosen with care. Comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple

 The Supreme Court hands down its final ruling of the year today, including one on Trump’s travel ban.

Even more important, we’ll soon learn if Justice Anthony Kennedy will retire, as rumored.

If he does, Trump will appoint another strong conservative, much like Neil Gorsuch (but perhaps more outspoken).

Doing so will have two powerful effects.

  1. It will solidify the Court’s conservative majority. (Now, it’s 4-4, with Kennedy as the swing vote.)
  2. It will guarantee Trump’s standing with nearly all conservatives.
    • Almost nothing matters more to them. They loved the Gorsuch appointment–and they dreaded Hillary’s choices.

 Pro-Trump group warns Republican Senators to back health care or they will be targeted (Politico)

The Senate vote is expected to be very close and could come soon. So, there’s back-room negotiating over terms and public pressure on holdouts.

One group closely aligned with the White House, “America First Policies,” is launching a $1 million attack on Nevada’s Dean Heller (R).

Their ad says, “If you’re opposed to this bill, we’re opposed to you.”

Comment: The ads might hurt a marginal senator, but it’s a painfully dumb strategy. Why? Because the threat only works against vulnerable incumbent Senators and, if it works against them, their seats will be won by Democrats, possibly flipping the Senate.

In the House, you can run primaries against incumbents in deep Red or Blue districts and still keep the seat. So those threats are credible.

This threat is either incredible or incredibly dumb. 

 Stay classy, New York: Restaurant patrons boo and shout at US ambassador Nikki Haley and her son 

Comment: Shameful. My contempt for these cretins is boundless. I would say exactly the same thing if they had booed Obama’s UN Ambassador, Samantha Power.

 The “sketchy firm” behind the dubious (and often false) dossier on then-candidate Trump dossier is stalling investigators  (NY Post)

A secretive Washington firm that commissioned the dubious intelligence dossier on Donald Trump is stonewalling congressional investigators trying to learn more about its connections to the Democratic Party.

The Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this month threatened to subpoena the firm, Fusion GPS, after it refused to answer questions and provide records to the panel identifying who financed the error-ridden dossier, which was circulated during the election and has sparked much of the Russia scandal now engulfing the White House.

Congressional sources say [Fusion GPS] is actually an opposition-research group for Democrats, and the founders, who are more political activists than journalists, have a pro-Hillary, anti-Trump agenda.

Fusion GPS was on the payroll of an unidentified Democratic ally of Clinton when it hired a long-retired British spy to dig up dirt on Trump.–NY Post

Comment: NONE of the mainstream media has carried this story. None. Contradicts the narrative.

 India’s Leader, Modi, begins low-key visit to Washington, including meeting with Pres. Trump (Washington Post)

The relationship has been bumpy recently, and the Trump administration has not articulated a South Asia policy.

Comment: The Post article saw potential minefields. I’m more optimistic, in part because the US needs India in dealing with China’s military expansion.

 Fascinating article on “Sanctimony Cities” in the Claremont Review of Books

The article by Christopher Caldwell is filled with interesting interpretations, accompanied by fascinating factoids.

The most interesting to me was about the largest city in Ohio. Cleveland? No. Cincy? No. Columbus is bigger than both combined. There are lots of jobs there collecting and dispensing Ohio’s tax money, educating its students, and running hospitals.



zd-hat-tip-facing-inward-100px-w-margin♥ Hat Tip for helpful suggestions:
◆ Clarice Feldman
 for the article on Sanctimony Cities


ZipDialog Roundup for Friday, March 24

Topics and articles chosen with care. Linked articles in bold purple

 Repeal and Replace goes down to the wire. Vote postponed Thursday, will happen Friday

The Washington Post reports the President gave holdouts a clear choice: “Trump delivers ultimatum to House Republicans: Pass health-care measure on Friday or he’ll move on”

The move was a high-risk gamble for the president and the speaker, who have invested significant political capital in passing legislation that would replace the 2010 Affordable Care Act. For Trump, who campaigned as a skilled negotiator capable of forging a good deal on behalf of Americans, it could either vindicate or undercut one of his signature claims. If the measure fails, it would be a defeat for Trump in his first effort to help pass major legislation and it may also jeopardize other items on his wish list, including a tax overhaul and infrastructure spending.

Defeat would also mean that Obamacare — something that congressional Republicans have railed against for seven years — would remain in place. –Washington Post

 Democrats Plan to Filibuster Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch  (New York Times)

To break the filibuster, the Republicans need 60 votes and, according to the NYT, they don’t have the 8 Democrats they need to do that.

Comment: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is playing to his enraged, activist base. I see two main consequences, one for elections, two for the Senate.

  1. D’s from states Trump won by significant margins are made much more vulnerable. They will have to vote with the party base or the larger electorate in their states.
  2. Mitch McConnell will toss out the 60 vote filibuster rule for Supreme Court  nominees, following Harry Reid’s precedent in overturning it for all other federal appointments.
    • McConnell didn’t hold this position open–blocking hearings for Obama nominee, Merrick Garland–to let the Democrats block this appointment.
  3. The change in Senate rules, executed mostly by Reid, alters that body in fundamental ways. It now looks much more like the House, where a simple majority is enough to ram through legislation if you can whip your party in line.

 The NYT’s spin misses the main story:

Their headline: Devin Nunes Puts Credibility of House Panel He Leads in Doubt

The real headline story:  Devin Nunes says he has hard evidence the Trump Transition team was spied on; Hints at “smoking gun” connecting spying to Obama Administration (ZipDialog post)

Nancy Pelosi clearly did not like Nunes’ doing this. She called him a stooge. Presumable the 4th one.

 London’s terror killer identified as Khalid Masood  Now, the Brits want to know how he slipped through their net (Independent, UK)

Comment: Actually, he slipped through the net twice. The intel services didn’t connect his name to terrorism; they just knew him as a criminal. At this point, nobody knows whether he was connected to a wider network or not. Second, Masood slipped through an open gate and got very near Parliament itself.

That said, British and European counter-terrorism services face overwhelming tasks. Decades of anti-Western immigrants, who have failed to assimilate, have been systematically ignored by political leaders who thought–quite wrongly–that “nobody would come to Britain [or Belgium or France or ….] unless they wanted to become like us.” Nope. And simply celebrating it as “multiculturalism” turned out to be a catastrophic failure, as Theresa May has recognized.  

This problem goes far beyond beefing up domestic intelligence and policing. That’s part of the answer, but the problem is much larger.

 Former Russian lawmaker, critical of Putin, gunned down in broad daylight in Ukraine’s capital, Kiev. (CNN) Denis Voronenkov joins a long line of former Putin critics. The suspected killer was himself killed by Voronenkov’s bodyguard.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called Thursday’s killing a “Russian state terrorist act” on Twitter, and described Voronenkov as “one of the key witnesses of the Russian aggression against Ukraine” — referring to Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region and a subsequent war with pro-Russian rebels. –CNN

Ukraine’s president called it an “act of terrorism.”

Comment: This killing makes Pres.-elect Trump’s excuses for Putin, especially those in his 2017 Super Bowl interview with Bill O’Reilly, all the more noxious (Transcript here)

“But he’s a killer though,” O’Reilly said. “Putin’s a killer.”

“There are a lot of killers,” Trump responded. “We’ve got a lot of killers. What do you think — our country’s so innocent.”

 Bright Future for Solar Energy in India: Hopes for a booming domestic market and exports of solar panels manufactured there (Business Insider) PM Narendra Modi wants to spend over $3 billion aiding the industry. In a country where some 300 million are not connected to the grid, the government hopes to draw 40% of its energy from renewables by 2030.