Don’t provide enemy any encouragement

Whatever President Donald Trump decides to do about the ongoing war in Afghanistan, it should not be described as an “exit strategy.” Such an announcement would be just what the Taliban and other Islamic extremists want to hear.

More than 2,300 Americans have been killed in and near Afghanistan as a result of the war there, launched after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in our country. Thousands more have been maimed for life. Other coalition partners also have suffered casualties — and no one can say with certainty how many Afghans have perished in the conflict. One estimate is that nearly 27,000 civilians have been killed.

Last week, the White House revealed Trump is considering a new strategy for Afghanistan and the wider war against Islamic terrorists there and in other regions. The administration’s top military and diplomatic advisers are part of the process.

About 8,400 U.S. troops are in Afghanistan, and the military wants more. Obviously, that number is inadequate to turn back the ongoing Taliban offensive to regain power.

Trump’s decision comes down to this: Either the United States is committed to defending Afghanistan from Islamic extremists, or it is not. Allowing the Taliban to regain power could allow terrorists to regain a safe haven. It certainly would subject Afghans to another reign of repression.

One way or another, declaring defeat, in effect, would tend to increase U.S. casualties, not lessen them. Whatever Trump’s decision, it must not appear to encourage the enemy.