How Will Trump Handle America's Multiple Wars? - Greg Myre
When Donald Trump enters the Oval Office, his presidency will begin with a national security challenge that has no precedent — four separate wars where the U.S. military is bombing Islamist extremists.
Presidential transitions in wartime aren't new, and some earlier conflicts were on a much larger scale. President Obama confronted two major wars on his first day in 2009. President Nixon came into office as the Vietnam War raged. President Truman assumed office when Franklin D. Roosevelt died in the final months of World War II.
But Trump, who has no military or foreign policy experience, will be juggling four distinct conflicts on Day 1 — Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Libya.
The president-elect has made a sweeping pledge to destroy the Islamic State, the main U.S. focus in three of these countries, and a presence in the fourth (Afghanistan). Yet Trump has not offered specifics and his limited statements have been riddled with contradictions.
"We have some great generals. We have great generals," Trump said in his first big post-election interview, with CBS' 60 Minutes, which aired Sunday night.
Trump argues it would be folly to unveil his battlefield plans because he wants to keep ISIS and other enemies off-balance. But his vague positions have created legions of skeptics in the military and foreign policy establishment. And given the multiple brush fires awaiting him, Trump will likely be tested early on.
The longest war in U.S. history, at 15 years and counting, could also claim to be the most forgotten. The war was a nonfactor in the campaign, and Trump has not signaled that he wants to step up the U.S. investment there.
However, the Taliban remain a formidable force, and Obama repeatedly put his own withdrawal timetable on hold rather than risk losing hard-won gains.
Afghanistan offers no appealing choices. There's no prospect of military success in the short term, and a Trump decision to pull back or to stay on both carry risks. This point was driven home on Saturday when a Taliban suicide bomber penetrated the highly fortified Bagram Air Base, north of Kabul, killing four Americans and wounding 16. - Read More, NPR