‘With Afghanistan, Trump has had two opposing voices screaming at him. In one ear, the America First far right, as represented by his own instincts and the lovable likes of Ann Coulter and Steve Bannon, demanded the complete withdrawal of US troops. In the other, the Generals insisted this would leave Afghanistan to the tender mercies of the Taliban and even less gentlemanly Islamist outfits; that more troops, rather than less or none, was the way to go.
In narrowly military terms, the detail he announced on Monday seems irrelevant gesturing. He gave no firm detail at all, in fact, though it is believed that the current US deployment of some 8,000 troops has been boosted to 12,000. Afghanistan was an anarchic hellhole with 100,000 US soldiers on its soil. An extra 4,000 in a country as large and chaotic is purely symbolic. (Even the proposed deployment of an extra 85 British troops might not tip the balance.)
But it is as symbolism that the speech was so reassuring. Here was Trump gesturing grudgingly that he has surrendered to the military. His Generals – chief of staff John Kelly, who hung his head while Trump equivocated between Nazis and anti-Nazis; James “Mad Dog” Mattis, the Secretary of Defence; and HR McMaster, the National Security Advisor – hold him hostage.’