ARLINGTON, Virginia - "We are not nation-building again. We are killing terrorists." There was plenty of tough talk from our commander in chief Monday night as he outlined his strategy for continued U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, the president also acknowledged he's learned a few things since taking office.
"My original instinct was to pull out! Decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the oval office," Trump said.
Like a seasoned card player, Trump is not showing all his cards at once, but he is recommitting the U.S. to the war in a few ways: more troops on the ground will join the 8,000+ already there. "We will not talk about numbers of troops or our plans for further military activities. I will not say when we are going to attack. But attack we will."
He's purposely keeping certain details under wraps which has not changed from what he repeated on the campaign trail. "America's enemies must never know our plans or believe they can wait us out," he said.
Trump is putting pressure on Pakistan, known to harbor terrorists. That got a thumbs-up from Republicans and Afghan leaders.
"I'm pleased with the decision," said Representative Paul Ryan. "We cannot allow another safe haven for terrorists to materialize again."
"We believe that it's in the interest of Pakistan, as well, to be a more constructive partner in the war against terrorists," said Hamdullah Mohib, Afghanistan ambassador to the United States.
Trump is giving more freedom to military commanders, relying on their judgment and expertise for decision-making. Anything else, he said, would be micromanagement from Washington.
Democratic response to Trump's speech was critical for declaring an "open-ended commitment" to this nearly 16-year war.
Now, POTUS is headed to a Tuesday evening campaign rally in Phoenix. The mayor and Arizona Democrats think this visit is too soon after his divisive comments about white national violence following bloodshed in Charlottesville. Phoenix law enforcement is prepared for mass protests from anti-bigotry groups and Mayor Grego Stanton is urging peaceful demonstrations.
The president began his nationally televised speech Monday with a call for unity. It's possible, though, not everyone tuned in.