WASHINGTON: Backtracking from an earlier promise of swiftly ending ‘America’s longest war’, US President Donald Trump announced the deployment of thousands of more troops in Afghanistan.
Admitting that his initial “instinct was to pull out”, but that things looked different from “behind the desk in the Oval Office”, Trump concluded that after months of discussions, a rapid exit would have predictable and unacceptable consequences.
The war in Afghanistan has witnessed the death of thousands of Afghan civilians, US and ally troops, and has cost the US trillions of dollars in tax-money. According to Neta Crawford, co-director of the Cost of Wars Project at Brown University, the total war spending in Afghanistan, since 2001, is approaching roughly $2trillion.
Washington Post reported that 149,000 people have died in Afghanistan and Pakistan between 2001-2014 during the war in Afghanistan.
A Defenselink Casualty Report estimates that the number of US military deaths, in the war in Afghanistan, since 2001 to October 2016, is approximately 2386. However, over 3,500 coalition troops have been killed since the war began in late 2001, media reported.
“A hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum that terrorists, including IS and al Qaeda, would instantly fill, just as happened before September 11th,” he said.
Drawing parallels between the invasion of Afghanistan and the one in Iraq, Trump called the Iraqi withdrawal a ‘mistake’, further stating that the cities US soldiers fought and bled for were soon occupied by IS.
“The vacuum we created by leaving too soon gave safe haven for IS to spread, to grow, recruit, and launch attacks. We cannot repeat in Afghanistan the mistake our leaders made in Iraq.”
While presenting America’s new policy pertaining to the war in Afghanistan, Trump also lambasted Pakistan for harbouring “agents of chaos, violence, and terror,” saying the US could “no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organisations”.
While recognising the contributions and sacrifices made by the Pakistan Army and people, he said the country has been a ‘valued partner.’
“Our militaries have worked together against common enemies. The Pakistani people have suffered greatly from terrorism and extremism. We recognise those contributions and those sacrifices.”
He claimed, however, that the US could “no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organisations,” warning that vital aid could be cut.
“It is time for Pakistan to demonstrate its commitment to civilisation, order, and to peace.”
Singling out the Haqqani network, the president threatened to cut off US aid provided to aide in the fight against terrorism.
“We are paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time, they are housing the terrorists but that will have to change,” said Trump in his address.
In March, General Joseph Votel, Commander of the US Central Command, had informed a congressional panel that Pakistan had “done things” against the Haqqani Network that have been helpful to the war against terror.
Referring to the country’s nuclear sibling, Trump said, “India makes billions of dollars in trade with the US and we want them to help us more with Afghanistan especially in the area of economic assistance and development.”
Trump’s unveiling of the Afghanistan plan also had a skeleton prepared for the South Asian strategy in which he said, “American strategy in Afghanistan and South Asia will change dramatically in the following weeks. Conditions on the ground, not arbitrary timetables will guide our strategy from now on.”‘
Ahead of the speech the military brushed off speculation that Trump could signal a stronger line against Islamabad, insisting the country has done all it can to tackle militancy.
In a press conference held on Monday, DG ISPR Major General Asif Ghafoor said, “Let it come,” referring to Trump’s decision. “Even if it comes… Pakistan shall do whatever is best in the national interest.”
When asked, the army spokesperson said the country had conveyed all its concerns to the US regarding the involvement of RAW and Afghan intelligence agency.
In view of the repeated US demand seeking action against the Haqqani Network, Ghafoor insisted that Pakistan had carried out indiscriminate operation against all groups including the Haqqani Network.
He said US military delegations were offered to choose the place and timing to verify Pakistan’s counter-terrorism successes. The US was even given evidence in this regard, he said, adding that repeated US demands had more to do with global politics.
He said Pakistan would take decisions in its best interest if US takes any ‘coercive measures’ in its new Afghan strategy.
A senior official in the Foreign Office revealed that the federal government is in the process of consultation with all stakeholders to prepare a detailed response to the United States President Donald Trump’s recent statement in which he denounced “Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organisations”.
“Micromanagement from DC does not win battles,” said Trump. “They are won in the fields drawing upon the judgement and expertise of wartime commanders and front line soldiers acting in real time with real authority with a clear mission to defeat the enemy.”
He added that they would no longer discuss timetables nor the number of troops on the ground saying, “Americas enemies must never know our plans.”
“I will not say when we’re going to attack but attack we will.”
Trump’s focus was on pressing the idea that the new strategy will not be based on Obama’s ‘failed strategic’ plans. “The US is done nation building in Afghanistan and now its time to kill the terrorists,” he said.
Pakistani politicians react to Trump’s comments and US Afghan policy
“Our troops will fight to win. We will fight to win. From now on, victory will have a clear definition, attacking our enemies, obliterating IS, crushing al Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan and stopping mass terror attacks against America before they emerge,” he clarified his stance on the troop operations.
“Our support is not a blank cheque and the support is not limited.”
Kabul’s response: Kabul welcomed the decision saying that ‘this is the first time a focus has been put on what Afghanistan must have to succeed, and we’re grateful for this outcome.’
Afghan Ambassador to the US Hamdullah Mohib on the policy commended Trump’s vision saying “a shift away from timetables and numbers to letting condition on ground determine military strategy.”
Afghanistan wants an “honourable and enduring” outcome from the policy shared.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani also welcomed Trump’s new Afghan strategy. “I am grateful to President Trump and the American people for this affirmation of support for our joint struggle to rid the region from the threat of terrorism,” Ghani said in a statement media reported.
The Afghan president said the new strategy would increase the capacity of the training mission for the war-torn country’s national security forces, including enhancing its fledgling air force and doubling the size of the Afghan special forces.
Taliban condemnation: The Taliban warned that Afghanistan would become a ‘graveyard’ for the United States, on Tuesday, after Trump cleared the way for thousands more American troops to be sent to the war-torn country.
“If America doesn’t withdraw its troops from Afghanistan, soon Afghanistan will become another graveyard for this superpower in the 21st century,” a spokesperson for the Taliban in Afghanistan, said in a statement. He added that America should think of an exit strategy “instead of continuing the war”.
Earlier the spokesperson had dismissed the strategy as vague and “nothing new”. “For now I can tell you there was nothing new in his speech and it was very unclear,” he told AFP.
A senior Taliban commander said Trump was just perpetuating the “arrogant behaviour” of previous presidents such as George W Bush.
“He is just wasting American soldiers. We know how to defend our country. It will not change anything.
“For generations we have fought this war, we are not scared, we are fresh and we will continue this war until our last breath,” he told AFP by telephone from an undisclosed location. He added that the statement proved the current Afghan government “is a US puppet”.
Prior to Trump’s announcement the Taliban had written an open letter warning him not to send more troops and calling for the complete withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan.
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