When President Donald Trump announced his strategic plan for Afghanistan on Monday night, he made two things very clear. First, though he declined to say how many more troops he was committing, it was evident that the U.S. would be investing more militarily to untangle the 16-year war that holds the dubious distinction of being the longest in the country's history. And, second, as he promised throughout the campaign, Trump reiterated that he would not signal any sort of schedule for complete withdrawal. 

What is less clear is what he meant when he said, "Another fundamental pillar of our new strategy is the integration of all instruments of American power — diplomatic, economic, and military — toward a successful outcome." Or how that will even work, given how far the Trump administration has gone in gutting the State Department.

Case in point: Seven months in, the department still hasn't filled key leadership roles. Seven of the nine senior officials listed on the department's website — including the undersecretary for civilian security, democracy and human rights — are vacant. The administration also still doesn't have an undersecretary for arms control and international security or an undersecretary for economic growth, energy and the environment.

In January, just days after Trump's inauguration, seven high-level department managers resigned, which the Washington Post reported was "the single biggest simultaneous departure of institutional memory that anyone can remember." In June, it was widely reported that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson might scrap the special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan. On top of that, the president's budget for 2018 calls for a 30 percent reduction in funding for the department. State Department officials didn't return a phone call seeking comment.

"This doesn't add up," said Linda Bilmes, a senior lecturer in public policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. "He is laying out a very robust and ramped-up diplomatic program which calls for extremely delicate negotiations with India and Pakistan and assumes an increase in the percentage of the cost of Afghanistan born by NATO partners. You would expect, if this were a consistent plan, for him to say that we are increasing the State Department's budget."

To be fair, how to salvage the mission in Afghanistan is a problem that has vexed three presidents. Despite some initial success in beating back the Taliban, George W. Bush’s pivot to Iraq allowed insurgent forces in Afghanistan to resuscitate. During the 2008 campaign, then-Senator Barack Obama promised to ramp up U.S. military forces there. About a year after winning the presidency, Obama announced he would not only send another 30,000 troops to stabilize the country, but also that in 18 months American service members would start coming home. By the time he left office, less than 10,000 remained — down from a high of 100,000 in 2011. But the conflict continued, and now, Trump is trying to make sense of it all.

Perhaps the most significant part of his speech on Monday was the tough stand Trump took on Pakistan, calling out our purported ally for providing a safe haven to terrorists, and his appeal to India to exert more economic influence in the region.

"We appreciate India’s important contributions to stability in Afghanistan, but India makes billions of dollars in trade with the United States, and we want them to help us more with Afghanistan," Trump said. Tilting even a little bit toward India in the hopes of encouraging a more cooperative — or at least a less ambiguous — Pakistan could attract China's attention. Do we have the diplomatic staff to smooth the friction that could arise between four nuclear powers?

Both Trump and Tillerson have also said the U.S. is ready to help the Afghan government and the Taliban negotiate a settlement without preconditions. Exactly what this will look like is anybody’s guess because Trump declined to give specifics — and much of it will depend on how events unfold on the ground. It’s not clear why the president, who is relying heavily on the advice of his generals, thinks things will be different this time around. But if the U.S. is going to pull off a delicate diplomatic dance, it's going to require, among other things, a strong State Department with the resources to redefine longstanding relationships.