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Trump commits to more troops in Afghanistan

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MateenK View Drop Down
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    Posted: 21-Aug-2017 at 9:07pm

vows 'fight to win'

Trump commits to more troops in Afghanistan

President Donald Trump opened the door on Monday night to an increase in U.S. troops in Afghanistan as part of a retooled strategy for the region, overcoming his own doubts about America's longest war and vowing "a fight to win."

Trump, in a prime-time televised address at a military base near Washington, said his new approach was aimed at preventing Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for Islamist militants bent on attacking the United States. 

The Republican president, who has repeatedly criticized the Afghanistan strategies of his predecessors, now inherits the same challenges, including a resurgent Taliban and a weak government in Kabul. He is laying the groundwork for greater U.S. involvement without a clear end in sight or providing specific benchmarks for success.

In a speech with few details, Trump did not specify how many more troops would be added, gave no timeline for ending the U.S. presence in Afghanistan, and put pressure on Pakistan, India and NATO allies to step up their own commitment.

But officials said he had signed off on Defense Secretary James Mattis' plans to send about 4,000 more to add to the 8,400 now deployed in Afghanistan.

He warned U.S. support was not open-ended - "our support is not a blank check" - and insisted he would not engage in "nation-building," a practice he has accused his predecessors of doing at huge cost.

"We are not nation-building. We are killing terrorists," he said.

Trump laid out a tougher approach to U.S. policy toward Pakistan. Senior U.S. officials warned he could reduce security assistance for Pakistan unless the nuclear-armed nation cooperates more in preventing militants from using safe havens on its soil.

"We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens," Trump said. "Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan. It has much to lose by continuing to harbor terrorists."

A Pakistani army spokesman said on Monday that Pakistan had taken action against all Islamist militants including the Haqqani network, which is allied to Afghan Taliban insurgents.

Immediately following the president’s speech, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson released a statement saying: “We stand ready to support peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban without preconditions. We look to the international community, particularly Afghanistan’s neighbors, to join us in supporting an Afghan peace process.”
Trump, in his address, however, very publicly and directly put Pakistan on notice.
Highlights of U.S. - Afghanistan policy

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, at Trump's request, spoke to Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani on Monday ahead of the address.

Tillerson had spoken over the phone with Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj and Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani, according to the State Department, about how the United States would like to work with each country to stabilize South Asia through a new, integrated regional strategy.

U.S. generals advised Trump to send several thousand more troops to break the stalemate and retake territory from the Taliban, which controls nearly half the country. But Trump, who campaigned on an “America First” foreign policy, has been reluctant to commit more resources to the country.

Following the president’s Monday night speech, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said Trump’s strategic guidance came after a rigorous interagency review.

“I have directed the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to make preparations to carry out the president’s strategy,” Mattis said in a statement. “I will be in consultation with the secretary-general of NATO and our allies — several of which have also committed to increasing their troop numbers. Together, we will assist the Afghan security forces to destroy the terrorist hub.”

Edited by MateenK - 21-Aug-2017 at 9:49pm
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