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President Trump Expected To Order 4,000 Additional Troops To Afghanistan


OK, let's get a Republican take now on the president's speech last night. Congressman Jim Banks is a Republican from Indiana. He also served in Afghanistan. He sits on the House Armed Services Committee and joins us on the line now from his home state.

Good morning, Congressman.

JIM BANKS: Good morning. It's great to be with you.

CHANG: Thanks for being with us. President Trump, you know, he's ordering 4,000 additional troops to Afghanistan. I know you supported a ramp-up, but is just an additional few thousand troops the scope you were hoping to see?

BANKS: Well, the president said much more than that last night. While many of us agree that it's going to take an increase in troops to get the job done, what the president also stated was important and a diversion from the politics of the last administration with arbitrary deadlines and troop levels that met campaign promises - a diversion from that and an elevation of the role of the military leadership in Afghanistan, empowering them to make decisions to get things done in theater to move this war forward.

What I saw just a couple of years ago serving in Afghanistan was a disintegration of the effort there with an abrupt pullout and drawdown of troops, a vacuum what - that was created that led the Taliban to where they are today - capturing a number of provinces and territories that they haven't held since 9/11 of 2001. So...

CHANG: Well...

BANKS: While the president's statements and strategy last night were a long time coming, he's setting us on the right path to get the job done that needs to be done in Afghanistan.

CHANG: Well, earlier, the president has advocated pulling out of Afghanistan. Do you really get the sense that his attitude has actually changed?

BANKS: Well, it was a moment of, perhaps, rare humility by the president last night in stating what many of us understand - that this is a very complicated situation on the ground in Afghanistan, and that we - if we do abruptly pull out of the war - which is what all of us want, eventually - if we do it now and do it abruptly, then the situation there will continue to disintegrate and lead to a situation that would be harmful for America and our allies abroad.

CHANG: At the same...

BANKS: ...Creating a safe harbor for terrorism once again in Afghanistan.

CHANG: At the same time, the president did not lay out a clear timetable or deadline of deployment. Would you have liked to see something more definitive?

BANKS: Well, the - his speech last night, I agree, was short on specifics. But what he did say was also significant - again, turning back to the military leadership on the ground. Also, he stated something that we haven't heard a president state in a long time - an understanding that Pakistan needs to be held accountable as well for promoting and creating safe harbors for terrorists as well, and understanding the role that our allies like India play in the equation too.

This is a commander in chief who I believe, in a refreshing way, is understanding the nature of the situation in Afghanistan, who is willing to take politics out of it and do what it takes to get the situation there heading on the right track.

CHANG: But again, how can the - what can the president do to reassure the public that this war that's gone on for 16 years won't just keep on going indefinitely?

BANKS: I think he understands that. I think the tone of his speech last night was one, again, of humility and understanding the complications on the ground, but also understanding that if we're in this war to win it - to fight and eradicate the Taliban, and terrorism, al Qaeda, other terrorist organizations in Afghanistan, to improve the security situation there, which improves the security of our world - then it's going to take a tough fight with an increase of troops on the ground to get it done.

I think this president understands more than any - than the last two administrations who've been involved in Afghanistan that the American people are not willing to invest for much longer in a war in Afghanistan. And we have to fight it to win it soon to move on.

CHANG: Do you find a corresponding diplomatic solution workable, feasible?

BANKS: Well, I think the president stated that very clearly that India is a powerful ally in the region, and that Pakistan has been working against the interest of America and our NATO allies in Afghanistan as well. So as far as diplomacy comes, it's holding Pakistan accountable and empowering the role of India in the region too.

CHANG: Just really quickly, has refocusing the country on the issue of Afghanistan done anything to reset things for the Trump administration? That - you know, they've had a couple of really tumultuous weeks.

BANKS: They have. But I believe that the statement last night was, again, a long time coming. And the American people need to understand the serious nature of what's going on in Afghanistan, that the president turned his sights there again last night, reminding the American people that we have men and women who are in harm's way in Afghanistan today who are fighting a war, and we need to support them.

CHANG: OK. Republican Congressman Jim Banks of Indiana, thank you very much for joining us.

BANKS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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