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—nobody can ever forget that—have not been repeated on our shores. But we must acknowledge the reality I’m here to talk about tonight: that nearly 16 years after the 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 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 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 our final meeting last Friday at Camp David with my Cabinet and generals to complete our strategy. I arrived at three fundamental conclusions 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 for victory. They deserve the tools they need and the trust they have earned to fight and 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 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, were 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 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. I'm a problem solver, and in the end, we will win.