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What Do We Know About The Security Challenges Facing Trump?


Our colleague Danielle Kurtzleben from NPR's Washington desk has been keeping us up to date on how the new Trump administration might change our country's direction in several respects. And she's here now in the studio to talk about foreign affairs.

Danielle, thanks for being here.


MARTIN: The world is very different than it was eight years ago when President Obama came into the White House. National security threats have evolved. What do we know about the security challenges that Donald Trump is going to face?

KURTZLEBEN: Sure. So there are some enduring challenges that Obama will hand off. The U.S. right now has around 15,000 troops in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan combined right now, for example. The fight against ISIS is continuing. We had that news this week about airstrikes in Libya. Global incidents of terror really increased during the Obama administration. Of course, that is not to pin the blame on him. But that certainly did happen. It is a very tense world that Trump is going to be governing in.

Aside from that, you have some other growing tensions that occurred during the Obama presidency. Let's start with North Korea. As of right now, North Korea has conducted five nuclear tests. When President Obama took office, it was just one. So that's one thing. Aside from that, you know, China has a growing presence in the South China Sea. So, you know, you have several regions of the world that Trump will have to keep his eye on simultaneously.

MARTIN: So those are the challenges. What do we know about how Donald Trump is going to handle those challenges?

KURTZLEBEN: Well, we've heard a lot of different things on a lot of different issues. So there are still some pretty big question marks about a lot of these. For example, in November, he had said he would end America's newly opened relations with Cuba. If that happens, that would end something that just took place very recently. Aside from that, he recently said that the One China policy is negotiable. That surprised people when he seemed to go against that pretty quickly.

MARTIN: This is a long-standing agreement between the U.S. and China that there is one China and Taiwan is a part of it.

KURTZLEBEN: Right, exactly. You know what - also, our European allies might be a bit nervous because Trump has blasted NATO. He was a champion of Brexit. He has criticized the European Union. That has made a lot of our allies across the Atlantic in Europe pretty nervous.

And then aside from that, one big accomplishment of President Obama is the big Paris climate change agreement. Donald Trump has said various things on climate change. He once called it an invention of the Chinese. He more recently said that he is open to the idea that climate change is real. Of course it is. So it's a big question of exactly what Donald Trump will do in that area.

MARTIN: NPR's Danielle Kurtzleben talking about foreign affairs and what we can expect from the incoming administration.

Thanks so much, Danielle.

KURTZLEBEN: Yeah. Thank you.


And Danielle's going to be talking about all sorts of issues as we look forward to the Trump administration throughout the program this morning.

Scott Detrow is still here with us. And Scott, sort of an amazing moment in this city - I took a taxi to work - to the studio this morning. And, you know, my cab driver said, I've been picking up so many visitors. My first question was - what are they coming for? Because there are a ton of people coming for Donald Trump's inauguration, a lot of people coming for other reasons.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: That's right. We have 900,000 people expected to come to the inauguration today. That's even with the rain in the forecast. But then tomorrow, there's going to be a big, kind of countermarch, a women's march, that they're expecting more than 200,000 people to be marching against Donald Trump after so many other people are here for Donald Trump today, so a lot going on in Washington.

MARTIN: Obviously, security is really tight. Lots of people in this city and traffic, I should mention, is a bear already.

GREENE: To a lot of D.C. residents, you're talking about.


GREENE: Well, we're going to be talking much more about the inauguration all morning. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.