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Trump plans to add 4,000 troops in Afghanistan

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Updated August 21, 2017 09:05 PM EDT

Updated August 21, 2017 10:15 PM EDT

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) applauded President Donald Trump's new strategy for Afghanistan Monday night.

McCain said the strategy is "long overdue" and makes up for the Obama administration's "failed strategy of merely postponing defeat."

Updated August 21, 2017 09:36 PM EDT

President Donald Trump will add 4,000 more troops to Afghanistan, according to Fox News.

The information broke just hours before Trump was scheduled to outline his plan for the country on national television. A troop increase was largely expected in advance of the speech, as the White House continues to find a way to jump start the fight against Taliban, al-Qaida and Islamic State forces in the country.

Trump's decision is the culmination of a months-long review of current policy in the war-torn country. Secretary of Defense James Mattis was put largely in charge of policy in the interim, but kept largely quiet on the final plan, noting he wanted to leave it to the president to deliver the plan to the American people.

Several officials within the administration, most notably national security adviser H.R. McMaster, were supportive of keeping a U.S. presence in Afghanistan. Former chief strategist Steve Bannon led the alternative viewpoint, supporting a withdrawal of U.S. forces who would then be replaced by contract forces. The idea died with Bannon's exit last week, allowing McMaster and other officials an opportunity to push a more traditional plan.

Trump's new policy will also take a regionally comprehensive point of view, where Afghanistan's neighbors India and Pakistan will be asked to increase their efforts in the country.

Trump doubled down on refusing to telegraph U.S. move and intentions and noted he will not tell America's enemies when he will attack, but assured the public that he will engage the enemy.

The president promised that the U.S. will not engage in nation building. He said the U.S. will not dictate to the Afghan people what they should do with their country, and that American forces will only focus on killing terrorists. In order to do that, he plans to lift restrictions on U.S. forces operating in the field, giving them more authority to engage the enemy.

Trump also announced an end to nation building, noting the time of building countries in the U.S. image are over. He said the his focus will instead solely be on killing terrorists.

There was also some tough talk for Pakistan, Afghanistan's eastern neighbor, whose security service is suspected of aiding Taliban forces.

"Pakistan has also sheltered the same organizations that try every single day to kill our people," said Trump.

Though he did not provide an exact number of additional troops, reports have claimed 4,000 are expected to be added.

President Trump will outline his new strategy for the ongoing war in Afghanistan on Monday night in his third address to the country as president.

The speech will be the culmination of months of back-and-forth within the administration on how to proceed with the now 16-year-old war, the country's longest. Two main schools of thought resulted from the review: one led primarily by former chief strategist Steve Bannon which took a more skeptical view of the U.S. role in the country, and another, pushed predominantly by national security adviser H.R. McMaster, which advocated a continued presence in the war-torn country, including a troop increase.

With Bannon gone, Trump is expected to follow a strategy more aligned with McMaster's plan. He is expected to approve a modest troop increase, anywhere between 4,000 and 8,000 troops (the U.S. currently has approximately 8,400 troops inside the country), according to various reports.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who has taken a leading role in Afghanistan policy, has remained tight-lipped on Trump's proposed changes, though he has acknowledged the plan will take a more regionally comprehensive point of view. That likely means a larger focus on Pakistan, which has proved problematic throughout the war due its security service's alleged support of the Taliban. Increased use of drone strikes and the use of special operations forces are also expected, according to Reuters.

Any troop increase would represent a significant shift from Trump's historical skepticism regarding America's continued presence in the country. That skepticism reportedly continued during the review process, and was likely a contributing factor as to why the plan took so long to develop.

The White House's lethargy on the Afghan issue has led to frustration in congress. Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, has led that charge, putting forth his own Afghanistan plan earlier this month.

"America is adrift in Afghanistan," said McCain in a statement. "President Obama's 'don't lose' strategy has put us on a path to achieving the opposite result. Now, nearly seven months into President Trump's administration, we've had no strategy at all as conditions on the ground have steadily worsened."

The McCain plan's central theme focuses on preventing the country from once again becoming the terrorist haven it was prior to the attacks on September 11, 2001. He called for bolstering counter-terrorism efforts and increase the capabilities within the Afghan government and security forces with the goal of achieving a negotiated peace process.

It's unclear if Trump's strategy will mirror McCain's, though it would not be surprising, should those within the administration who support a troop increase have their way.

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