Skip to main content

tv   The Rachel Maddow Show  MSNBC  August 21, 2017 6:00pm-7:00pm PDT

6:00 pm
dropped the largest nuclear bomb in the world. we don't know why. the stated reason, that bomb, the $16 million mother of all bombs was necessary to blow up a complex of deep caves in that part of afghanistan. we do have penetrated bombs designed for underground targets but that bomb they dropped in april is not one of those bombs. aside from that puzzling incident in april when they dropped the gigantic bomb, the new administration's take on this war has been a little bit of a mystery. the president has recently apparently considered a radical plan to take the u.s. military out of afghanistan all together and instead pay $10 billion a year to the brother of education secretary betsy devos so he could run the war in afghanistan as a private for-profit affair. that friday strategy at camp david that led to night's speech was reportedly to include a
6:01 pm
press addition from erik prince. that said, take with a big grain of salt any reporting that tells you the private for-profit war plan is dead now or anybody who tells you there's a clear view of what the president might do exactly. years of past statements on this issue are clear and consist ten. they would make you think he's about to announce the end of war tonight. the best said reporting that we've got tonight is that he's about to add for troops. and then there's the wild card with this president, the gigantic bomb this spring, the privatization plan they're considering, the timing of doing this speech tonight. we're told to expect that the president will make a decision about his strategy in afghanistan tonight. we don't know exactly what he'll say. we have no advance excerpts. here he comes. ladies and gentlemen, the
6:02 pm
president of the united states. ♪ ♪ >> thank you very much. thank you. please be seated. vice president pence, secretary of state tillerson, members of the cabinet, general dunford, deputy secretary shanahan and colonel duggen, most especially thank you to the men and women of ft. myer and ever member of the united states military at home and abroad. we send our thoughts and prayers to the families of our brave sailors who were injured and lost after a tragic collision at
6:03 pm
sea, as well as to those conducting the search and recovery efforts. i am here tonight to lay out our path forward in afghanistan and south asia. but before i provide the details of our new strategy, i want to say a few words to the service members here with us tonight, to those watching from their posts and to all americans listening at home. since the founding of our republic our country has produced a special whose selflessness, courage and resolve is unmatched in human history. american patriots from every generation have given their last breath on the battlefield for our nation and for our freedom.
6:04 pm
through their lives and though their lives were cut shot, in their deeds they achieved total immortality by following the heroic example of those who fought to preserve our republic, we can find the inspiration our country needs to unify, to heal and to remain one nation under god. the men and women of our military operate as one team with one shared mission and one shared sense of purpose. they transcend every line of race, ethnicity, creed and color to serve together and sacrifice together in absolutely perfect cohesion. that is because all service members are brothers and sisters.
6:05 pm
they're all part of the same family. it's called the american family. they take the same both, fight for the same flag and live according to the same law. they're bound together by common purpose, mutual trust and selfless devotion to our nation and to each other. the soldier understands what we as a nation too often forget. that is wound inflicted upon a single member of our community is a wound inflicted upon us all. when one part of america hurts, we all hurt. and when one citizen suffers an injustice, we all suffer together. loyalty to our nation demands loyalty to one another.
6:06 pm
love for america requires love for all of its people. when we open our hearts to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice, no place for bigotry and no tolerance for hate. the young men and women we send to fight our wars abroad deserve to return to a country that is not at war with itself at home. we cannot remain a force for peace in the world if we are not at peace with each other. as we send our bravest to defeat our enemies overseas, and we will always win, let us find the courage to heal our divisions within. let us make a simple promise to the men and women we ask to fight in yoour name, that when
6:07 pm
they return home from battle they will find a country that has renewed the sacred bonds of love and loyalty that unite us together as one. thanks to the vigilance and skill of the american military and of our many allies throughout the world, horrors on the scale of september 11th and nobody can ever forget that, have not been repeated on our shores. but we must acknowledge the reality i am here to talk about tonight. that nearly 16 years after september 11th attacks, after the extraordinary sacrifice of blood and treasure, the american people are weary of war without victory. nowhere is this more evident than with the war in afghanistan. the longest war in american
6:08 pm
history. 17 years. i share the american people's frustration. i also share their frustration over a foreign policy that has spent too much time, energy, money and most importantly lives trying to rebuild countries in our own image instead of pursuing our security interests above all other considerations. that is why shortly after my inauguration i directed secretary of defense mattis and my national security team to undertake a comprehensive review of all strategic options in afghanistan and south asia. my original instinct was to pull out and historically i like following my instincts. but all my life i've heard that
6:09 pm
decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the oval office. in other words when you're president of the united states. so i studied afghanistan in great detail and from every conceivable angle. after many meetings over many months we held or final meeting last friday at camp david with my cabinet and generals to complete our strategy. i arrived at three fundamental conclusion about america's core interests in afghanistan. first, our nation must seek an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the tremendous sacrifices that have been made, especially the sacrifices of lives. the men and women who serve our nation in combat deserve a plan
6:10 pm
for victory. they deserve the tools they need and the trust they have earned to fight and to win. second, the consequences of a rapid exit are both predictable and unacceptable. 9/11, the worst terrorist attack in our history was planned and directed from afghanistan because that country was ruled by a government that gave comfort and shelter to terrorists. a hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum that terrorists, including isis and al qaeda, would instantly fill just as happened before september 11th. and as we know, in 2011 america hastily and mistakenly withdrew
6:11 pm
from iraq. as a result, our hard won gains slipped back into the hands of terrorist enemies. our soldiers watched as cities they had fought for and bled to liberate and won for occupied by a terrorist group called isis. the vacuum we created by leaving too soon gave safe haven for isis to spread, to grow, recruit and launch attacks. we cannot repeat in afghanistan the mistake our leaders made in iraq. third and finally, i concluded that the security threats we face in afghanistan and the broader region are immense. today 20 u.s. designated foreign terrorist organizations are active in afghanistan and pakistan. the highest concentration in any
6:12 pm
region anywhere in the world. for its part, pakistan often gives safe haven to agents of chaos, violence and terror. the threat is worse because pakistan and india are two nuclear armed states whose tense relations threaten to spiral into conflict, and that could happen. no one denies that we have inherited a challenging and troubling situation in afghanistan and south asia. but we do not have the luxury of going back in time and making different or better decisions. 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.
6:13 pm
i'm 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. we need look no further than last week's vile vicious attack in barcelona to understand that terror groups will stop at nothing to commit the mass murder of innocent men, women and children. you saw it for yourself. horrible. as i outlined in my speech in saudi arabia three months ago, american partners are committed to stripping terrorists of their territory, cutting off their
6:14 pm
funding and exposing the false allure of their level ideology. terrorists who slaughter innocent people will find no glory in this life or the next. they are nothing but thugs and criminals and predators and, that's right, losers. working alongside or allies we will break their will, dry up their recruitment, keep them from crossing our borders and yes, we will defeat them and we will depefeat them handily. in afghanistan and pakistan america's interests are clear. we must stop the resurgence of safe havens that enable terrorist to threaten america and we must prevent nuclear weapons and materials from coming into the hands of terrorists and being used against us or anywhere in the world for that matter. but to prosecute this war, we
6:15 pm
will learn from history as a result of our comprehensive review, american strategy in afghanistan and south asia will change dramatically in the following ways. a core pillar of our new strategy is a shift from a time-based approach to one based on conditions. i have said it many times. how counter productive it is for the united states to announce n the dates that we intend to begin or end military options. we will not talk about numbers of troops or our plans for further military activities. conditions on the ground, not arbitrary timetables, will guide our strategy from now on. america's enemies but never know our plans or believe they can wait us out. i will not say when we are going
6:16 pm
to attack, but attack we will. another fundamental pillar of our new strategy is the integration of all instruments of american power, diplomatic, economic and military, toward a successful outcome. some day after an effective military effort perhaps it will be possible to have a political sentiment that includes elements of the taliban in afghanistan. but nobody knows if or when that will ever happen. america will continue its support for the afghan government and the afghan military as they confront the taliban in the field. ultimately, it is up to the people of afghanistan to take ownership of their future, to govern their society and ever lasting peace.
6:17 pm
we're a partner and a friend, but we will not dictate to the afghan people how to live or how to govern their own complex society. we are not nation building again. we are killing terrorists. the next pillar of our new strategy is to change the approach and how to deal with pakistan. we cannot longer be silent about pakistan's safe haven for terrorist organizations, the taliban and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond. pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort in afghanistan and has much to lose by continuing to harbor criminals and terrorists. in the past pakistan has been a valued partner. our militaries have worked together against common enemies. the pakistani people have
6:18 pm
suffered greatly from terrorism and extremism. we recognize those contributions and those sacrifices. but pakistan has also sheltered the same organizations that try every single day to kill our people. we have been paying pakistan billions and billions of dollars, at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting. but that will have to change and that will change immediately. no partnership can survive a country's harboring of militants and terrorists who target u.s. service members and officials. it is time for pakistan to demonstrate its commitment to civilization, order and to peace. another critical part of the south asia strategy for america is to further develop its strategic partnership with
6:19 pm
india, the world's largest democracy and a key security and economic partner of the united states. we appreciate india's important contributions to stability in afghanistan, but india makes billions of dollars in trade with the united states and we want them to help us more with afghanistan, especially in the area of economic assistance and development. we are committed to pursuing our shared objectives for peace and security in south asia and the broader endo pacific region. finally my administration will ensure that you, the brave defenders of the american people will have the necessary tools and rules of engagement to make this strategy work and work effectively and work quickly. i have already lifted restrictions the previous administration placed on our war
6:20 pm
fighters that prevented the secretary of defense and our commanders in the field from fully and swiftly waging battle against the enemy. micro management from washington, d.c. does not win battles. they're won in the field drawing upon the judgment and expertise of wartime commanders and frontline soldiers acting in real time with real authority and with a clear mission to defeat the enemy. that's why we will also expand authority for american armed forces to target the terrorists and criminal networks that sow violence and chaos throughout afghanistan. these killers need to know they are nowhere to hide. that no place is beyond the reach of america might, american arms.
6:21 pm
retribution will be fast and powerful as we lift restrictions and expand authorities in the field. we're already seeing dramatic results in the campaign to defeat isis, including the liberation of mosul in iraq. since my inauguration we've achieved record breaking success in that regard. we will also maximize sanctions and other financial and law enforcement actions against these networks to eliminate their ability to export terror. when america commits its warriors to battle, we must assure they have ever weapon to apply swift, decisive and overwhelming force. our troops will fight to win. we will fight to win. from now on victory will have a clear definition. attacking our enemies, obliterating isis, crushing al qaeda, preventing the taliban
6:22 pm
from taking over afghanistan and stopping mass terror attacks against america before they emerge. we will ask our nato allies and global partners to support or new strategy with additional troop and funding increases in line with our own. we are confident they will. since taking office i have made clear that our allies and partners must contribute much more money to our collective defense. and they have done so. in this struggle the heaviest burden will continue to be born by the good people of afghanistan and their courageous armed forces. as the prime minister of afghanistan has promised, we are going to participate in economic development to help defray the cost of this war to us. afghanistan is fighting to
6:23 pm
defend and secure their country against the same enemies who threaten us. the stronger the afghan security forces become, the less we will have to do. afghans will secure and build their own nation and define their own future. we want them to succeed. but we will no longer use american military might to construct democracies in faraway lands or try to rebuild other countries in our own image. those days are now over. instead we will work with allies and partner to protect our shared interests. we are not asking other to change their way of life, but to pursue common goals that allow or children to live better and safer lives. this principled realism will guide our decisions moving forward. military power alone will not bring peace to afghanistan or stop the terrorist threat arising in that country but
6:24 pm
strategically applied force aims to create the conditions for a political process to achieve a lasting peace. america will work with the afghan government as long as we see determination and progress. however, our commitment is not unlimited. and our support is not a blank check. the government of afghanistan must carry their share of the military, political and economic burden. the american people expect to see real reforms, real progress and real results. we will keep our eyes wide open in abiding by the oath i took on january 20th i will remain st d steadfast in protecting american lives and american interests.
6:25 pm
in this effort we will make common cause with any nation that choose to stand and fight alongside us against this global threat. terrorists take heed. america will never let up until you are dealt a lasting defeat. under my administration many billions of dollars more is being spent on our military. this includes vast amounts being spent on our nuclear arsenal and missile defense. in every generation we've faced down evil and we have always prevailed. we prevailed because we know who we are and what we are fighting for. not far from where we are gathered tonight hundreds of thousands of america's greatest patriots lay in eternal rest at arlington national cemetery. there is more courage, sacrifice
6:26 pm
and love in those hallowed grounds than in any other spot on the face of the earth. many of those who fought and died in afghanistan enlisted in the months after september 11th, 2001. they volunteered for a simple reason. they loved america and they were determined to protect her. now we must secure the cause for which they gave their lives. we must unite to defend america from its enemies abroad. we must restore the bonds of loyalty among our citizens at home. and we must achieve an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the enormous price so many have paid. our actions and in the months to come all of them will honor the sacrifice of every fallen hero, every family who lost a loved
6:27 pm
one and every wounded warrior who shed their blood in defense of our great nation. with our resolve we will ensure that your service and that your families will bring about the defeat of our enemies and the arrival of peace. we will push onward to victory with power in our hearts, courage in our souls and everlasting pride in each and every one of you. thank you. may god bless our military and may god bless the united states of america. thank you very much. thank you. [ applause ] ♪ >> president trump wrapping up remarks at ft. myer, va v tonight speaking before an audience that includes many
6:28 pm
military personnel. they were silent during his entry into the hall and throughout his speech. they now stand and applaud. the was speaking before an audience of his cabinet. most of the members of his cabinet were in attendance tonight as well as cue advisers like kellyanne conway, i think that's the vice president on the right side of your screen now stepping forward. there have not be very many presidents in history who have taken office while major wars were under way. frankly roosevelt died before the end of world war ii. that was the waning months, the end of world war ii. the next time that happened was eisenhower. he started his first term in the last few months of what turned out to be the korean war. after that it was nixon. he was sworn in when the nation was already embroiled in the vietnam conflict. he had a secret plan to end the
6:29 pm
vietnam war which turned to be not that. after that it was barack obama taking office as the wars raged in iraq and afghanistan. he pledged to wind them both down, had difficulty doing so. donald trump became only really the fifth president in u.s. history after those other four to ever take office while other mayor wars were already under way. speaking tonight is america's longest war. it will hit its 17th birthday this fall. but it is a peculiar challenge for a president not just to wind down an ongoing were war but to wind down an ongoing war he played to role in starting. and with this president there's a particular challenge because of his year's long record of being blunt and unequivocal in
6:30 pm
calling the afghanistan war a waste of american life and american treasure. he's been clear and consistent on that point going back to 2010 and 2011. tonight the president in his remarks saying he shares america's frustration with the length of the war. saying his original instinct was to pull out but he now wanted to spend this evening talking about what he views as the unacceptable consequences of pulling out. he draw as an analogy the iraq war calling president obama's decision to wind down the war, he called that a hayesy decision and mistaken decision. it should be noted when president obama made that decision, donald trump then a private citizen, not only supported president obama's decision to end the iraq war when he did but he said that president obama should have ended it years el. on cnbc in august of 2011 trump was asked about the decision to end the war in iraq and he said
6:31 pm
well i think he could have gotten out along time ago. president trump describing that decision to withdraw from iraq haye hasty and he's not going to make that mistake in afghanistan. the president described the major change in policy here as being that the united states would no longer have a time based approach to getting out of afghanist afghanistan. what that means is there's no end date for the war. he's criticizing president obama for having set a time, a timetable of when the u.s. troops would draw down in afghanistan. instead president trump will use a conditions based approach. if that sounds familiar, that's because it's going back to the way that george w. bush talked about the wars that he started. george w. bush when he was president saying i'm not going
6:32 pm
to give you a date when we're going to end the war or leave iraq. when they stand up, we'll stand down. it was a conditioned based approach to tend of that war. that war, of course, did not end while burge w. bush was president and it does not ended today. but that is what president trump is talking about going back to. he also said a couple of times that he wants to use all elements of u.s. power, not just the military power in terms of moving forward in afghanistan. it should be noted i think when he says that the other elements of u.s. pow thaer are brought to bear in a situation like afghanistan include the state department which is understaffed and underpowered to an extent that has never been true in decades. also crucially in june the special representative for afghanistan an pakistan, a job that had originally been heldly
6:33 pm
richard holbrook. that office, the special representative for afghanistan and pakistan, that was just dissolved by the trump presidency, by the trump administration with no announcement. they didn't tell the people who work in that office that their jobs were going away. they closed the office in june without saying a word about it. to the extent that the president is calling for a hold of government terms of approach, the one person who was supposed to lead those efforts in u.s. government not only is now gone but her entire office was shut down behind her while he was on her way out the door. in terms of what is new here, the president is taking on a new tone towards pakistan saying that pakistan needs to prove that it is committed to civilization, order and peace. that will be taken as a shot across the bow in pakistan, a nuclear-armed country. it will also be seen as
6:34 pm
intensely provocative that the president might call on india, pakistan's arch rival, the president calling on india to get more deeply and directly involved in afghanistan. that will be seen as directly challenging to the pakistanis, alongside these threats from the president tonight. we're going to be talking with our national security producer and andrea mitchell who is the most plugged in reporter in the united states in terms of the american foreign policy establishment to try to get a sense of what the president might have meant granularly with those threats and that change in stance that he sort of indicated tonight but didn't spell out. before we get to those reporters, i do want to bring in for a little perspective, nbc news presidential historian, michael besh loss. it is so rare to have a new president grappling with major
6:35 pm
wars that he didn't start. >> right. >> i know you've pointed out there's only been a handful. he's the fifth u.s. president to take office in those circumstances >> right. >> given how other presidents have handled that challenge, how would you place him on that number line. >> you didn't hear him blustering about fire and fury as he did pretty recently about north korea. you were talking about nixon a little earlier and the best parallel is nixon gave a famous speech november of 1969. he had gone through his first year saying, as you said, i have a secret plan to end the war, didn't tell anyone what it was. he said my plan is vietnamization. and he vowed that he would not be defeated. in retrospect we know that that speech was harolding a slow american withdrawal. and on the nixon tapes we know that nixon was privacy saying
6:36 pm
once weapon g get out i don't e us to remain. take a look at the language we heard tonight. donald trump used three words i think he will come to regret. he said this is my plan for victory. and then he went on to say, essentially suggest that there might be a very modest troop surge and also said, as you were referring to, you know, i'm not against withdrawal, essentially he said, these are his words, hayesy withdrawal and announced withdrawal. those are two basically very big signals that suggest what this speech really is not a suggestion that he's turned completely around and is now going to move forwards some kind of military victory. this is a suggestion that this is going to be a withdrawal date unknown. can i make one more point? >> please. >> and that is he's asking americans to risk their lives on
6:37 pm
the battlefield. and i think one of the most important things for a president to do is, you know, if a president does not intend to push for victory, at least be frank about that. that's one thing that lyndon johnson did not do. he sent a lot of american soldier to vietnam privately saying i don't expect to win. i hope against hope that what we're not seeing tonight is donald trump sending americans into harm's way and privately essentially saying, as he did in 2012, the second we get out i expect this government to collapse. >> michael besh loss, thank you for being with us tonight. i appreciate that. to michael's point, there's nobody for whom tonight's -- there are no americans for whom tonight's remarks are greater stakes than the 8500 military families who have a loved one
6:38 pm
serve in afghanistan. the troop numbers have gone as high as 100,000 american soldiers serving there in the first term of the obama administration. it's now down to 8500. we were told in advance of tonight's speech to expect that the president might be greenlighting, although not explicitly talking about a small increase in troop numbers. we know that general nicholson, had expressed a preference to have a few more thousand u.s. troops to work with. nothing like that would actually spelled out tonight. i'm not quite sure that we got any direct explanation for the president about anything specifically that is going to change, other than calling it a new strategy. that said, sometimes the pentagon knows what they're listening for in a way that we laymen don't. joining us now from the pentagon is our national security and military reporter. she's been covering the pentagon for a dozen years, been to afghanistan more than two dozen times. thanks for being with us
6:39 pm
tonight. >> thanks, rachel. >> i'm gleaning what i can from the president's word, from his tone, from the shift this represents from his earlier clear stance that the war in afghanistan should be ended immediately. within the pentagon, at the defense department, is there a clear sense of what has changed tonight or what the president was directing? >> there were a couple of small things that he mentioned that show a path forward for the military. let me start by saying there is not some dramatic change in the war in afghanistan based on the speech he gave tonight. a couple of minor things. when he talked about expanding authorities for targeting criminal networks in afghanistan. that sounds like he's giving the authority for the u.s. military to start offensively targeting the taliban again. you'll remember in 2014 the quote unquote combat mission in afghanistan turned over to a train and advice assist mission for the afghan military.
6:40 pm
he didn't spell it out explic explicitly but it sounds like president trump is saying once again the u.s. military will have the authority to target the taliban. they have the authority to target al qaeda, isis. but it sounds like this is a new authority that he's granting. he also said that -- >> before you get to the second point, can i ask a clarifying question there. >>y sure. >> one of the things that we noticed is that the president talked about devolving decision-making authority on key matters. like when there was the gigantic mother of all bombs that they dropped in eastern afghanistan in april. one of the key reporting moments there is when we learned that general nicholson in afghanistan that ordered that, nothing that went up through the chain with the secretary of defense or the president. we've also been told that the sort of, i don't know if it's explicitly the rule of engagement but the terms op of
6:41 pm
which u.s. officials are engaging has been loosened. is this the president describing something tonight that has already been in effect for months? >> yes and no. you heard him say we can't micromanage a war from washington. so back in june president trump gave secretary mattis the authority to deploy force to afghanistan without going to the white house and requesting any special permission. secretary mattis has had that authority for more than two months. i find it interesting that he has not used it. general nicholson back in february and actually last fall, he started talking openly about the fact that he needs several thousand more u.s. troops in afghanistan to fight the war there, to continue with the mission. secretary mattis made a concerted effort and decision not to deploy those additional troops when he had that authority in june. he wanted this to be president
6:42 pm
trump's strategy. president trump with this announcement, with this speech tonight owns this war. this is now his strategy that the u.s. military will be implementing. right when the speech ended, secretary mattis put out a written statement where he talked about he's directed general dunford to implement this new strategy. so president trump has really been running this war like a ceo. he's delegating things out to his commanders. saying i will not send troops into harm's way unless i'm doing it under your strategy. >> now he's made that strategy explicit. i guess from the perspective of the military lines things up so that they feel that they can carry out these authorities that were already delegated to them. i guess in that sense it's a reassertion of the chain of
6:43 pm
command and civilian control of the military even if they had to push them out there to do it. >> and one other thing you mentioned earlier, no time line for withdrawal. but he also made it very clear, president trump, that this is not an open ended commitment. and he talked about how the u.s. is going to need to see real reforms and real results from the afghan government in order to stay there. that's something -- that's language that we're not accustomed to hearing. there's the afghan government, it has its problems, problems with corruption. the military has its problems. but that is a very specific, i don't want to use the word threat. but that is specific language that we're not accustomed to hearing from the american government against the afghans. >> courtney, nbc news military reporter joining us tonight from the pentagon. thank you so much. i want the bring now into the conversation andrea mitchell,
6:44 pm
our chief political correspondent. thank you for being with us tonight. i want to ask you about the president's remarks toward pakistan tonight. those are the things that struck me as a change in american international relations in the sense that the president insulted pakistan to my ear when he said that pakistan needs to demonstrate that it's committed to civilization, order and peace, telling a country they're not peaceful, i doubt that will be well received. and he immediately followed it saying we would like more direct effort in pakistan from india. that seems to me like the biggest change diplomatically in international relation to night. can i ask your reaction to that? >> that's what leaped out to me. american diplomats and presidents have made a pack really for decades. you don't go to pakistan without also going to india.
6:45 pm
it's been this even handed approach. you've got two nuclear arms states. they've fought so many wars between them. and the fact is this is a direct insult to pam stan which frankly deserves insult because they protect and shelter the has canca has canny network. but it is not usually done this openly. and by bringing india into it, it's an insult, a prof occasion. i can't see what tin sen tif is for pakistan to take any action. they now have their pride and their authority, their nation hood challenged by the president. it is a strange way to try to expand the strategy to include all of south asia. >> in terms of the u.s. government and its orientation on these issues, the president didn't appoint a fundraiser to
6:46 pm
be ambassador of pakistan. it's a gesture towards stability. that said he dissolved the special representative for afghanistan and pakistan, which is an envoy, super envoy position that existed throughout the obama administration. and then we've seen such major changes at the state department, including not staffing up even the senior ranks of that agency. how will -- if a new big fight with a nuclear power has been picked by the president, how is that going to be staffed and handled by this administration? >> well it isn't staffed and it isn't handle. ed you've got a handful of people in position able to cope with this kind of thing. when he says no more nation building, rachel, there has been a positive effect from what both presidents bush and obama did. now a lot of that has gone down
6:47 pm
the drain in the last couple of years as the taliban reclaimed territory. there's no question that we're losing. we' not just in stalemate. the good guys are falling behind and there's corruption in kabul. in the past you heard it agaibuu have not heard it against kabul. but i don't see what the change is. other than what courtney said, he deliberately gave mattis, nicholson and the other generals the ability to decide on future deployments. mattis i think very smartly did not accept it by delaying this until there was a review and getting the president's buy-in. i think the biggest change may be they've persuaded over many meetings and arguments to get the president to go against his own grain and his own instincts and go against steve bannon to make a decision which is more in line with what his generals
6:48 pm
believe, which is not a corrupt withdrawal and certainly not hiring erik prince to bring his mercenaries in. and he's now reeled him in and he's going with nicholson and the chairman of the joint chiefs and mattis and h.r. mcmaster and john kelly for whom afghanistan is such an emotional challenge, given the fact that he lost his son after the obama increase to $30,000 troops and that he has another marine son either dlo deploying or about to be deployed. >> that human connection for the key decision makers here is key. pleasure to have you with us here tonight. joining us now in the studio is andrew exum. in 2009 he served as an adviser. he's a contributing editor at
6:49 pm
the atlantic magazine now. great to have you here. let me ask your top line reaction to the speech tonight. >> you hit it. it's not a policy change. the big shift is where the president has been. he has been down on this war and now he's the president and has to confront a series of some really bad options in afghanistan. i think the biggest takeaway is that he is now taken ownership of this war. to a certain degree mattis insisted on that. this is not going to be something he delegated to the generals and could blame on the generals. now he has ownership of it. i think the pakistan stuff, that could be significant. we'll see. it's certainly going to cause ripples. my question and i hate to go straight to the operational side of things but so many of our lines of communication and reply run through pakistan. it will be interesting to see how they thread that needle on the one hand dependent on pakistan for logistics and on the other hand taking them to
6:50 pm
task. >> it was interesting when we got some of the supporting reporting about what was going on in the administration to prepare for this speech and we got word that the vice president was speaking with the afghan president and that rex tillerson, secretary of state, was speaking with his equal number in afghanistan and pakistan and india. and i thought, uh-oh. is this the sort of thing -- are our relations with pakistan so tender and fragile that bellicose words like this from the president can really screw things up, or do they expect that that has to happen in our politics and they think the real conversations happen on the line with -- >> i don't know. i'd have to defer it to a real specialist in pakistani politics. we have often called out the pakistanis privately.
6:51 pm
we have often, you know, used the levers that we have in terms of the military aid that we give them to try to pressure them and to change in their behavior in afghanistan. that hasn't worked. it's been 16 years and so you get the sense that the trump administration and the key militaries and military are willing to try something different. that carries huge risks but i have to see exactly what this is. if you look at the actual policy that the obama administration had towards the war in afghanistan, it's not that much different from what we heard tonight. so i think we have to figure out, you know, what the president said is going to be really significant and what is going to be a change and what's going to be different. you're exactly right, the way in which the president called out india and wanting india to play a larger role in afghanistan. this, of course, is -- will trigger all of the gravest fears within the pakistani military and within the deep state. so -- >> one last question for you.
6:52 pm
>> sure. >> the issue that andrea raised about the privatization plan that we heard floated, i won't believe it's dead until i see a stake in its heart. but is it possible -- if they really are considering taking the u.s. military out and putting in thousands of private contractors under erik prince's leadership to run this as a for-profit private enterprise, how far out side the realm of possibility is that, as far as you're concerned? >> first off, let's not hold the president to task with wanting to see every available option because, goodness knows, after 16 years and he comes in with a fresh set of eyes, any president would want to see the full range of options. i also think it's very warming that both secretary mattis and general mcmaster, the national security adviser, heard out erik prince in terms of his plan and said, no, we're not going to do
6:53 pm
that. we're not going to outsource our war fighting. i think that was a positive and i would have been very worried about the fabric of our country going forward. >> thank you for your time on that. afghan war veteran, contributing editor at "the atlantic" magazine, good to have you. >> thank you. joining me now is former secretary of defense who spent considerable time in afghanistan in that role. mr. carter, thank you very much for being with us. i'm glad to have you here. >> thanks, rachel. >> let me ask you the same first question. your top line reaction to what the president said tonight. >> you bet. i heard a formula for a forever war. you heard the shift from a time-based strategy to a condition-based strategy. very opaque with regard to objectives and goals and troop levels and a seeming commitment to fight for as long as possible
6:54 pm
for an honorable and enduring outcome but no rd wouword on wht might be. >> is there anything that the president said tonight that gave you confidence that he knows how to change the strategy with the war in afghanistan? >> it would have been helpful to hear about the counterterrorism and what is our purpose, the thing that keeps us going after spedding spending so much blood and treasure. he haranged our allies. >> do you think there needs to be a change in resources to better support the u.s. troops that are there in whatever numbers? there's about 8500 service members there now. that number may be going up, although we didn't hear that
6:55 pm
tonight. do resource levels need to change, too? >> resources have to go along with what your goals are. if there's a disconnect there, your strategy will fail. it's been reported that they might add 4,000 troops, bringing us up to around 13,000. it's unclear what 13,000 troops could accomplish in afghanistan that 100,000 could not accomplish several years ago under president obama. >> phillip carter, really appreciate your time tonight. your experience as a combat adviser and now serving as a senior fellow for new american security, appreciate it. >> thank you. joining us now is my friend chris matthews, the host of "hardball" who i want to speak to every night that there's a speech in the world. >> thank you. >> what did you think about tonight? >> well, i listened closely. as all of your previous guests said was excellent, look, i think there's two kind of wars we're familiar with. you've got to know which one you're in. a war of annihilation, like we
6:56 pm
went to berlin, we won the war, dropped the two bombs in japan, we won that war. those sides collapsed. there was unconditionabl surrender. and then there's a war of attrition. and tonight i think the president admitted that that is the kind of war he wants here. he said, our goal is to prevent the taliban from taking over afghanistan, to prevent them. a holding action. in other words, we're not going to annihilate the taliban. they are going to be there in pe perpituity. he talked about the evils of isis and al qaeda. we know that. whether it's a private army, outsourced army or u.s. army, we're fighting the taliban and he says his only goal was to prevent them from taking over while we're there. we're going to leave, they're going to stay. you can figure it out. we've been through this with
6:57 pm
vietnam. the local people always win wars of attrition. the great power always goes home. he wants an enduring outcome. does that mean we stay? we just stay. that's the great question. permanently. >> courtney raised this issue at the end of her remarks. she said when the president said basically we're going to stay until we see real results from the afghan government, until we see the afghan government show real reform and real results, i think she's highlighting that point in the speech because that seems like a thing that if that's going to be the predicate for america doing anything, that is a recipe for us continuing to do what we're doing now forever. >> i'm sorry. you had me on to give the politics and i think you know the politics. you know the politics. it is that no president wants to admit defeat or be responsible for losing a country, whether it's china, vietnam, whatever, as if we ever had it.
6:58 pm
you must stay long enough to survive your own political term. if it's one term for trump, he'll want to stay until 2020. if he gets re-elected, he wants to stay until 2024. that's the political imperative. don't be on watch when we lose. you went through this with jack kennedy, of course with w. and on through obama in iraq and afghanistan. now we have this president on watch. he doesn't want to lose while it's on his watch so he says while he's in office, this is what he said tonight, while we're there under my watch and leadership, we will prevent the takeover of the taliban of afghanistan. yeah, we can probably do that as long as we're there. the question is, if we're ever going to leave, when? and if we're ever going to leave, why not now? when? what's ever going to change? as long as the taliban is in the field against an afghan government, who are you going to bet on? the taliban. they're the most zealous, fright continuing and ruthless and
6:59 pm
we're winning without us upgrading our service. and if we go to 4,000 more troops, making it a 50% more hike than we have, it's long enough for trump to face re-election. a lot of people lost on our side and a lot of people we will kill. >> chris matthews, host of "hardball," thank you, my friend. glad you're here with us tonight. >> thank you. to chris' point there about the equilibrium in afghanistan, the pointed nature of the president's comments tonight on pakistan, you know, set off alarm bells for a lot of reasons. pakistan is a big, nuclear-armed country. pakistan is ostensibly our ally. while we support the anti-taliban side, they support the taliban. that's long been true and that's true of the attendant groups aside from the taliban that have killed so many years over the
7:00 pm
long years that we've been in afghanistan. if the president wants to dramatically change our relationship and stance towards pakistan, that potentially could be very, very consequential. we have to believe that he knows what he's doing and he has the means, the intellectual fire power and the personnel to follow it up and make sure it ends in something constructive and not in disaster. and that's next. our coverage of the president's announcement about afghanistan continues on this network with lawrence o'donnell in the next hour and then brian williams here live in "the 11th hour" and then i'll be back live for a special edition of "the rachel maddow show" at midnight. a very big news night, rachel. this speech is something we've been waiting for all weekend. we expected to hear a number and we didn't hear a number. >> that's right. >> it's supposed t