Expect to see more U.S. troops heading to Afghanistan after President Donald Trump outlines his plans for the war there in an address to the American people tonight.
Hitting the airwaves at 9 p.m. Eastern, the president is expected to ask for more boots on the ground as well as the nation’s trust as he implements his plan, according to the Hill, which has been months in the making.
With chief strategist Steve Bannon out and much of the president’s senior staff now stacked with former generals who have advocated for an Afghanistan surge for months — John Kelly in the White House chief of staff seat, Bannon nemesis H.R. McMaster as national security advisor and James Mattis leading the Pentagon as defense secretary – tonight marks a serious shift for Trump. As a private citizen and later as a candidate, he long advocated for U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and for shifting funds to focus inward on improving America.
Since June, Mattis has been authorized to send as many as 3,900 more Americans into what is now a 16-year battle, but has held off until the Trump Administration’s overall Afghanistan policy was fully hammered out.
“I am very comfortable that the strategic process was sufficiently rigorous,” Mattis said, speaking aboard a military aircraft on an overnight flight from Washington to Amman, Jordan, per Politico.
But just how many more people the president seeks to send overseas is so far uncertain. According to reports, numbers tossed around have included adding anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 troops to the 8,4000 U.S. service members and 5,000 NATO troops already deployed there. Additional U.S. air support and strikes are also likely to come with any ramp up in troop levels.