Dems: Trump 'has no strategy' for Afghanistan

Dems: Trump 'has no strategy' for Afghanistan
© Keren Carrion

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and other top Democrats hit President Trump on Monday for failing to offer much detail during his anticipated speech laying out the strategic future for the 16-year-old war in Afghanistan.

“Tonight, the President said he knew what he was getting into and had a plan to go forward,” Pelosi said in a statement Monday. “Clearly, he did not. The President’s announcement is low on details but raises serious questions.”

After months of deliberation, Trump on Monday spoke about the path forward in America’s longest war.

Despite originally wanting to withdraw from the country, Trump said that he now believes that would lead to a “predictable and unacceptable” power vacuum.

He said the U.S. presence in Afghanistan will depend on conditions on the ground, rather than any specific timeline, and that the United States would take a regional approach, including putting more pressure on Pakistan to combat terrorist safe havens within its borders.

But Trump declined to discuss specifics, including how many more U.S. troops will be sent to Afghanistan.

“We will not talk about numbers of troops or our plan for further military activities,” he said. “I will not say when we are going to attack, but attack we will.”

In her statement, Pelosi hit Trump on announcing a plan that stands in contrast to past comments where he said “we have wasted an enormous amount of blood and treasure in Afghanistan” and “let’s get out!”

She said Trump’s lack of specifics set up an open-ended commitment with “no accountability to the American people.”

“The American people need to know more about the President’s plans and conditions,” she said. “To what extent is there a comprehensive strategy, including an exit strategy for finally bringing America’s heroes home? Congress looks forward to a comprehensive briefing on the troop increase and overall strategy as soon as possible.”

Several other Democrats echoed Pelosi’s criticism in separate statements.

Sen. Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Raymond ReedFBI chief: Trump hasn't specifically directed me to stop Russian meddling in midterms Live coverage: FBI director testifies to Senate Intelligence Committee Senate Dems demand answers on cost of Trump's military parade proposal MORE (D-R.I.), the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the speech was “short on the details our troops and the American people deserve.”

Reed also hit Trump for wanting to cut State Department funding, which he said will be needed to stabilize Afghanistan; for delaying and waffling on the strategy, which Reed said has damaged U.S. credibility; and for pitting Pakistan against India, which Reed said will hurt regional stability.

“I know Americans are weary of the war in Afghanistan,” Reed said. “President Trump has a duty to set a clear strategy for Afghanistan. Tonight’s speech is a long overdue step, but more important will be the details and an accompanying commitment by this President going forward.”

Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandAmerican women will decide who wins and loses in 2018 elections Dems ponder gender politics of 2020 nominee Calls mount from Dems to give platform to Trump accusers  MORE (D-N.Y.), a Senate Armed Services Committee member, said she’ll call for “extensive” hearings on the strategy and that Trump’s speech was “terribly lacking.”

“Lacking in details, lacking in substance and lacking in a vision of what success in Afghanistan looks like,” she said. “When committing American service members overseas, the Commander in Chief needs to clearly define the mission and a strategy to achieve success. Until he can do that, expecting service members to fight and possibly die in Afghanistan is a disservice to their sacrifice.”

Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), a House Armed Services Committee member and Marines veteran, said the speech was full of “vague promises and wishful thinking.”

“Tonight, the American people should have heard a detailed, realistic strategy with achievable objectives and measurable benchmarks,” he said. “A plan that took this dysfunctional administration seven months to finalize is surprisingly short on new thinking and new ideas and will serve only to perpetuate a dangerous status quo.”

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) said the address shows Trump “has no strategy” for ending the war despite his previous desire to do so.

“Tonight, I had hoped for firm details on how the White House plans to extract the U.S. from this volatile region, while still protecting American interests,” he said. “Instead, we were presented with a vague plan that will likely leave American troops in combat for years to come.”