One thing worth noting is that Trump cast all this as an unwanted obligation, but one he couldn't see fit to cast off:
"My original instinct was to pull out, and historically I like following my instincts. But all my life, I have heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office. In other words, when you are president of the United States. So I studied Afghanistan in great detail and from every conceivable angle."
"When I became president, I was given a bad and very complex hand, but I fully knew what I was getting into. Big and intricate problems. But one way or another, these problems will be solved. I am a problem solver. And in the end, we will win. We must address the reality of the world as it exists right now, the threats we face, and the confronting of all of the problems of today, and extremely predictable consequences of a hasty withdrawal."
Those portions of his speech seemed to be his attempt to square this new strategy with his campaign rhetoric about costly overseas adventures (even if he was
somewhat less sanguine as a candidate about cutting and running from Afghanistan specifically ... after years of thinking, or at least tweeting, otherwise
). To the extent he's dealing with the facts as he finds them and acting on the advice of his top military advisers about the consequences of staying vs. leaving, that's good. But the test will come during the low moments under this strategy -- and there will be low moments, no matter how sound the strategy -- and whether he is tempted to change under pressure. His chosen course of action ultimately may prove to be the right one, but it seems unlikely to be terribly popular with Trump's base or with Americans more broadly. He surely knows that going in. But as he acknowledged, it's different "when you are president of the United States" and American soldiers are dying due to decisions you've made. An escalation that brings about victory is one thing. An escalation that simply marks another chapter in an interminable war is quite another.