“When Secretary [Jim] Mattis said this would be a South Asia strategy, that tells you a lot,” said John Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, referring to recent remarks by the defense secretary. “The big issue wasn’t land-war tactics. The big issue is Pakistan.” He called Trump’s Monday speech the “defining moment of the Trump policy seven months into the administration.”…

One of the ways McMaster tried to persuade Trump to recommit to the effort was by convincing him that Afghanistan was not a hopeless place. He presented Trump with a black-and-white snapshot from 1972 of Afghan women in miniskirts walking through Kabul, to show him that Western norms had existed there before and could return…

“Talking to generals, he realized, you pull out completely and this is what happens: You endanger lives, you endanger American interests, allies, troops, Afghanis who are our friends, and it’s not a stable government,” said a senior administration official.