To listen to Fox News’ Bret Baier and retired Gen. Jack Keane, Donald Trump’s victory in Afghanistan is nearly certain just because he’s not President Obama. But just in case, Keane helpfully paved the way for blaming Obama should Trump’s efforts fail.
Trump flip-flopped on Afghanistan Monday night when he announced he’d increase troops there, instead of withdrawing. Yet he avoided providing any strategy or even explaining what victory would look like.
The New York Times noted (my emphases added):
He portrayed the strategy as a stark break with the Obama administration, arguing that while his predecessor set artificial timetables for American involvement in Afghanistan, his strategy would be a comprehensive, conditions-based regional approach that would aim for a political solution there.
By refusing to place a number on troops or to specify benchmarks for success, Mr. Trump was in essence shielding himself against potential backlash from his political base and from the American public, which has grown weary of the war.
The president heaped contempt on his predecessor’s strategy, promising that he would avoid President Barack Obama’s mistakes.
But in substance, Mr. Trump’s strategy was not all that different from Mr. Obama’s, relying on a mix of conventional military force and diplomatic pressure on Pakistan. One administration official conceded that there was to be no major change in the mix of American forces operating in Afghanistan, and that the priorities would remain training Afghan forces and conducting counterterrorism operations.
Anchor Baier promoted the “not Obama” spin in his first question to Fox military analyst Keane. And Keane readily joined the effort.
BAIER: Think about, General, the difference between this speech and the speech that President Obama delivered where there was a timeline set, numbers set, the critics always said by doing that, the Taliban operates in calendars not clocks and they just waited until that moment.
KEANE: I'm impressed because we finally got a Commander-in-Chief who speaks honestly, not just to those troops in front of him, and I love the way he talks about ‘em at the beginning and he expresses genuine feelings for them and the way he ends on him and you know those are serious feelings he's talking about, but he spoke so honestly to the American people.
We’ve had this political deception for such a long time dealing with Afghanistan and you’ve put your finger right on it. President Obama, when McChrystal and Petraeus come before him and they give him a plan to win in Afghanistan, he gives them 25% less troops than the minimum that they had requested. And then he goes out and makes a speech at West Point a few days later, and never having discussed this with them that he's going to pull the troops out in 15 months. That decision, those two decisions – not giving ‘em enough troops and pulling ‘em out – doomed Afghanistan to this non-winnable situation that brought President Trump to the rostrum tonight.
Baier did question how much things will really change by adding 4,000 additional troops, the reported amount of the increase.
Keane acknowledged that would be “helpful” but “not decisive.” However, Keane sounded excited as he discussed Trump’s thinly-veiled threat to Pakistan in the speech.
KEANE: We’ve got a Commander-in-Chief who understands the reality of what’s taking place in the war, he clearly would rather not do this [attack Pakistan] but he surrounds himself with people who are experienced, they’ve got good judgment, they’re steady under pressure, they’ve given him that advice and he’s demonstrated one of the great qualities that a president has to have, and that is flexibility and the courage to change your mind in the face of new and compelling evidence, and I think this president has done that and stepped up to this thing tonight in a way that I truly commend him for.
Watch Keane all but declare we’re about to get sick of winning below, from Fox’s coverage of Trump’s August 21, 2017 address.