President Trump will address the nation Monday evening on the U.S.’s path forward in Afghanistan, after 16 years of U.S. military involvement there.
Trump will deliver his address at Army post Fort Myer in Arlington, Virginia at 9 p.m., the White House announced in a statement.
The announcement comes after Trump huddled with national security advisers at Camp David on Friday.
It’s not clear what the new strategy will be, but he is widely expected to add between 3,000 and 4,000 more U.S. troops to the roughly 8,400 there now, a plan presented early on in the administration.
National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster has supported that plan, based off of a recommendation from the U.S. commander on the ground, Gen. John Nicholson, who has called the current situation in Afghanistan a “stalemate.”
Those troops would expand a current train-and-advise mission to Afghan troops fighting the Taliban, and expand a counterterrorism mission to go after Al Qaeda, the Islamic State’s affiliate in Afghanistan, and other terrorist groups.
Mattis told reporters traveling with him on Saturday that the president had made a decision, but did not share any details.
“He really did come in with very different courses of action. I think he now needs the weekend to collect his thoughts about how he’s going to explain it to the American people,” he said.
Mattis called the decision making process “rigorous.”
“It involved all members of the cabinet — of the national security staff, I would say, writ large,” he said.
He said McMaster and Chief of Staff John Kelly “were coordinating to make certain everyone who had equities was heard eventually.”
“I’m very comfortable that the strategic process was sufficiently rigorous and did not go in with a preset condition in terms of what questions could be asked or what decisions would be made,” he said.
The White House statement noted it would also address America’s engagement in “South Asia” — a reference to other players in the Afghanistan conflict, such as Pakistan.
Mattis told reporters, “It is a South Asia strategy. It is not just an Afghanistan strategy. So if you look at the region, it’s a South Asia strategy, and we’ll be addressing those issues in it.”
The announcement comes roughly eight months into the president’s tenure. Former President Obama announced his new strategy about 10 months after taking office, announcing a surge of about 30,000 more troops to supplement the 17,000 he ordered when he first came into office.
Obama announced the end of the “combat mission” in Afghanistan in 2014, and planned to withdraw all U.S. troops except for an embassy presence by the time he left office in January 2017. He reversed his decision after the Taliban made a comeback, leaving 8,400 troops in the country.
The Taliban has made steady gains since 2014, and now control almost half of the country.