Stay or leave?

Aug 24, 2017 By Steven R. Peck, Publisher

The president's "major policy announcement" on the war in Afghanistan wasn't all that major. Mr. Trump, who as recently as last year during the presidential campaign called the U.S. military effort in Afghanistan "a total waste of time" and advocated a quick withdrawal, had changed tunes entirely on Monday when, now speaking as commander in chief, he pledged a long-term commitment to Afghanistan and authorized sending thousands more American troops there as the U.S. tries to control the Taliban, establish stable, civilian, democratic government, as make Afghanistan a bulwark against international terrorism.

Throughout the speech, Trump mentioned America's "new strategy" in Afghanistan, but there really was nothing new at all in the speech.

Long-term commitment? We've been there for 16 years, since shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the U.S.

Perhaps 4,000 more troops? Once we had 100,00 in Afghanistan.

During the presidential campaign, Trump rarely rose above the level of the bumper sticker -- or the tweet -- in addressing Afghanistan. The overriding impression as that he didn't really know anything about it other than it was "a mistake" for George W. Bush to get us involved and "a disaster" for Barack Obama, first, to have kept us there and, second, to have announced when we were pulling back.

Monday's proclamations didn't appear to reveal much more understanding of the situation by Trump, but it did demonstrate that it has, at least, come to his attention as president. That's a start.

This is not some distant, arcane, ivory-tower topic. It involves young American men and women being put in harm's way. Thousands of Americans have been killed or wounded in Afghanistan. including 11 deaths this year.

Fremont County has a stake in that. In 2013, remember, Sgt. Kevin Griffin of Riverton was killed in Afghanistan during an incident in which one of his fellow soldiers won the Medal of Honor.

The president has lots of generals in his cabinet now. They, presumably, do know something about the Afghanistan war. The president once boasted that he "knew more than the generals" when it came to Afghanistan. Now it appears that he is willing to listen to them as this confounding issue continues with no end in sight.

Well into our second decade there, the new president is learning what his two predecessors -- one who started the war and the other who inherited it -- learned: There's no easy way to stay and no easy way to leave.