Gov. John Kasich and President Donald trump
Photo: Columbus bureau
Photo: Columbus bureau

Kasich on Trump Afghanistan decision: ‘Not the way I think we should go’

Ohio Gov. John Kasich objected to President Donald Trump’s apparent decision to send as many as 4,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, saying “we need to get out of” the war-torn country where U.S. and allied forces have spent 16 years trying to defeat a Taliban insurgency.

In an appearance on CNN’s State-of-the-Union on Sunday, Kasich said the United States has “largely” achieved its initial goal of making certain Afghanistan would not serve as a “launching pad” for terrorist attacks by al-Qaeda or other groups against the United States and Europe.

But he said “somehow we’ve gotten ourselves involved in nation building, trying to build a strong central government in a country where central governments don’t work. It’s done in a regional way.

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“I think we need to begin to leave there. And I think we can reserve the opportunity to use intelligence to be able to strike any of these training camps, any of these places where our intelligence community begins to think that they’re now building a base and a launching pad that would be harmful to us and our allies.

“So continuing to put more troops in is not the way I think we should go.”

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis told reporters Sunday that Trump has approved a new strategy in Afghanistan to stabilize the pro-Western government in Kabul and step up training by Afghan forces to defeat the insurgents, who control as much as 40 percent of the country.

Although Mattis did not outline specific steps, U.S. commanders have argued that the 8,400 Americans currently in Afghanistan are simply not enough to steady the regime.

Acting every bit a presidential possibility for 2020 even as he insisted he does not “have any plans to do anything like that,” Kasich not only weighed in on Afghanistan but also suggested the United States should make clear that unless China restrains its North Korean ally, the U.S. will destroy any North Korean nuclear system which could threaten the United States.

“If I were the president of the United States, and we had a regime like North Korea, and they were able to develop the technology to target the United States of America, we would have no choice but to take those systems out,” Kasich said.

Kasich’s repeated appearances on Sunday talk shows this year has prompted talk he plans to challenge Trump in the 2020 Republican primaries. He has veered sharply from Trump not only on Afghanistan, but on overhauling the nation’s health-care system.

“I think (Kasich’s) trying to alienate the last few Republicans who like him,” said Barry Bennett, a former senior campaign adviser to Trump. “He should be waging the war against opioids instead of being on TV — if he’s serious about making lives better.”

“Given the fact that he’s received zero briefings on” on Trump’s plans for Afghanistan, Bennett said sarcastically that “it’s nice to know he has a fully informed opinion.”

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