Lt. Gen. Boykin: I’m Not Sure Trump Administration Knows What Winning in Afghanistan Looks Like

Retired Lt. General Jerry Boykin, executive vice president of the Family Research Council, discussed with Breitbart News Daily on Wednesday President Trump’s Afghanistan policy speech, describing it as “one of the three most impressive speeches he’s given.”

“I think the other two were probably in Riyadh and then in Europe when he addressed NATO,” Boykin clarified before accepting SiriusXM host Raheem Kassam’s suggestion that Trump’s speech in Warsaw should also be on the list.

“He stuck to the script. He didn’t go off and ad-lib. He stuck to the script, and I think that when he does that, he’s very effective,” Boykin said of Trump’s address to the nation on Afghanistan. “Listen, for a soldier, he said some very positive things that they’ve been waiting to hear from a commander-in-chief.”

“There are still a couple of issues with this as far as I’m concerned,” he continued. “One is, what exactly does it mean to win? It’s a good term, I’m glad that he used it. It was a message to the troops that we’re not just putting you over there to occupy space and time; we’re putting you there to win. That’s a positive message for them because what goes with that is a relaxation of the rules of engagement, an increase in the resources that you need to win.”

“So that’s an important phrase, but the question still is, ‘Okay, but what does it mean to win? What does victory look like?’ That is unanswered,” Boykin said, adding he is not comfortable that President Trump and his advisers have come much closer to defining victory in Afghanistan than preceding administrations.

“If he is not putting these additional troops in with a total expectation of achieving some objective that puts us clearly on a pathway to an exit strategy or a strategy to pull out of Afghanistan, then these troops are meaningless,” he cautioned. “The whole idea of putting more troops in there is meaningless unless they are part of a strategy to ultimately get everybody out of there.”

“I have said publicly that I’m against putting more troops in there,” said Boykin. “After hearing his speech the other night, and he said the thing that – clearly, you know, his military advisers gave him some very good advice and helped him prepare that speech – he said the things that the military wants to hear, and I think even some Americans that are more informed wanted to hear from him about nation-building and that type of thing.”

Although he stressed the importance of working toward an exit from Afghanistan, Boykin said he was glad Trump “didn’t lay out his strategy” in detail during his televised address.

“Don’t misunderstand me: I think that was a brilliant part of his speech the other day is that he didn’t lay out a strategy or a timeline, and he made it clear that it’s based on conditions on the ground and not a date certain,” he said.

Kassam countered that by saying that leaving out the details, Trump may have effectively written a “blank check” for perpetual engagement in Afghanistan. Boykin repeated that defining victory is more important for avoiding the blank-check pitfall than publishing strategic details.

“What are the objectives of not just the 4,000 who might go in, but what are the objectives of the ones on the ground in there now?” Boykin asked.

“One of the things that I am really frustrated with, and he addressed – but he didn’t go into detail – is the Bush administration believed that the ultimate legacy that Bush would leave would be democracy in the Middle East. Now, you and I know that in a place like Afghanistan, that is as primitive and corrupt as they are, plus the fact that the only real legal system they’ve ever known is sharia – you can’t have a democracy in that environment,” he told Kassam.

“Yet we were nation-building, trying to give them a central government that was a representative government, and then in every one of those tribal villages, we were trying to get them to show some allegiance to the central government, which they’ve never been willing to do. That kind of nation-building has wasted our time in Afghanistan. It’s not going to happen,” Boykin declared.

Kassam cited some disturbing signs that “democracy-building” is still a Western objective in Afghanistan. He said the project is doomed to fail because the authority of elected representatives is always held secondary to theocratic decrees and sharia law in strict Islamic societies.

“We did this in both Iraq and Afghanistan,” Boykin observed. “We helped them write a constitution, and you know what the first words of the constitution were? ‘The Islamic State of fill in the blank,’ Iraq, Afghanistan. We, America! Now, does that tell you we were totally unprepared for what we were getting into? It all went downhill from there.”

He agreed with Kassam’s point that, as Boykin put it, “you can’t have a coexistence between sharia and democracy or representative government.”

“By the way, in a country like Afghanistan, they can’t handle democracy. You’re talking about a hundred years before you could ever bring them to the point where democracy might have some chance of surviving there,” Boykin added.

“Quite frankly, when we went into Iraq, we took our eye off the ball and turned Afghanistan over to NATO,” he said.

“With the exception of the Brits and Canadians, generally speaking, and maybe the Romanians, NATO forces don’t go in there and fight,” Boykin elaborated. “They go in there with national caveats. They go in there and hunker down in their bases and survive for their year and go home. They don’t engage the enemy.”

“We took our eye off the ball, turned it over to them, and the Taliban resurged. And now we’re in a worse situation than we were to begin with,” he said.

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