A picture of Afghan women in miniskirts helped convince Trump to send more troops

McMaster was desperate to prove Western norms could still return.

Credit: AP Photo/Susan Walsh
Credit: AP Photo/Susan Walsh

National security adviser H.R. McMaster showed Donald Trump a 1972 picture of college students in Kabul wearing miniskirts to help persuade him that America’s longest war could finally be won.

McMaster was reportedly eager to prove to Trump that the country was not a lost cause, and that Western norms could still return, the Washington Post reported.

Prior to his election Trump described the NATO mission in Afghanistan as a “complete waste” and “not in our national interest.” He advocated withdrawing outright from the war-torn country.


But in a speech on Monday, Trump announced the United States would send more troops to Afghanistan. Although he declined to provide the number of additional troops, White House official said it would be about 4,000.

“We will fight to win,” Trump declared. “From now on, victory will have a clear definition, attacking our enemies, obliterating ISIS, crushing al-Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan and stopping mass terror attacks against America before they emerge.

“We want them [Afghans] to succeed, but we will no longer use American military might to construct democracies in far-away lands or try to rebuild other countries in our own image. Those days are now over.”

“This has been many months in the making,” said Kellyanne Conway, the president’s counselor. “The hallmark of leadership is a deliberative process, not an impulsive reaction, and that is precisely the protocol he followed here.”

Trump also announced that U.S. commanders would be given more autonomy to fight against terrorists and insurgents in the way they saw fit, saying that “micromanagement from Washington D.C. does not win battles.” This potentially clears the way for commanders on the ground to pay less attention to the potential for civilian casualties then under previous rules of engagement.


But Trump’s blustering rhetoric, and his insistence that the United States would not engage in nation-building, seems to contrast with the argument McMaster used to win Trump over — that more troops could mean a return to more Western norms.

Women’s rights made relatively steady progression through the early 20th century in Afghanistan. Women had been eligible to vote since 1919, and gendered separation was abolished in the 1950s. However, after the U.S.-backed insurgency during the Soviet-Afghan war forced the USSR to withdraw from the country, the Taliban seized control. Women and girls were promptly banned from school, work, leaving the house unsupervised and speaking publicly. Punishments included being beaten for attempting to study, or stoned to death if found guilty of adultery.

Sixteen years after the initial NATO intervention in 2001, the Taliban are now estimated to control nearly 50 of the country’s 400 administrative areas.