But just what are the conditions he’ll be examining? Trump’s affinity for secrecy in war — not signaling specific decisions on troop numbers, rules of engagement or battle plans — is designed to catch the enemy off-guard, increased civilian casualties be damned. A reluctance to define victory, however, allows for a constant shifting of invisible goal posts — which could lead to a costly, decades-long U.S. presence in the country.
The Trump Administration needs to be clear about what the end-goal is — “we will win” is insufficient. The President announced some tactical changes like ending micromanagement from Washington, giving our military members the tools they need and expanding their authorities to obliterate the enemy. So is the definition of victory the killing of all terrorists in the region? Even if that were possible, what conditions need to be in place so that once we leave, new terror groups don’t spring up? And how will we achieve our new military objectives with a few thousand more troops (up from 8,400 now) when we couldn’t “win” with a combined 140,000-strong U.S. and NATO force just a few years ago?