The US on Monday ruled out a hasty withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan as President Donald Trump warned Pakistan of consequences if it continues to provide safe haven to terror groups. He also sought an enhanced role for India to bring peace in the war-torn country.
He highlighted the fact that Pakistan and India are nuclear armed states and their tense relations could spiral into conflict, reported ANI.
Pakistan and India are nuclear armed states whose tense relations threaten to spiral into conflict, and that could happen: Donald Trump
— ANI (@ANI) August 22, 2017
Trump, in a prime-time televised address to the nation, laid out his South Asia policy, saying a "critical part" of it was to further develop US' strategic partnership with India. He said after a "comprehensive review", it has been decided that the American strategy in Afghanistan and South Asia will change dramatically.
No rapid exit from Afghanistan
In his first formal address to the nation as commander-in-chief, Trump discarded his previous criticism of the 16-year-old war as a waste of time and money, admitting things looked different from "behind the desk in the Oval Office."
"My instinct was to pull out," Trump admitted as he spoke of frustration with a war that has killed thousands of US troops and cost US taxpayers trillions of dollars. But following months of discussion, Trump said he had concluded "the consequences of a rapid exit are both predictable and unacceptable" and leaving a "vacuum" that terrorists "would instantly fill."
"A core pillar of our new strategy is a shift from a time-based approach to one based on conditions. I've said many times how counter-productive it is for the United States to announce in advance, the dates we intend to begin, or end, military operations," Trump said in his address.
"We will not talk about numbers of troops or our plans for further military activities," Trump said as he announced his South Asia policy in front of about 2,000 people from all five services and top officials of his administration.
Trump detailed several of the US's goals in Afghanistan, including "obliterating IS", "preventing the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan" and strengthening Afghan security forces. He noted that "the stronger the Afghan security forces become, the less we will have to do."
Trump for the first time also left the door open to an eventual political deal with the Taliban. "Someday, after an effective military effort, perhaps it will be possible to have a political settlement that includes elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan," he said. "But nobody knows if or when that will ever happen," he added, before vowing that "America will continue its support for the Afghan government and military as they confront the Taliban in the field."
Warning to Pakistan over continued support to terrorist groups
Trump lashed out at Pakistan for its continued support to terrorist groups and warned Islamabad of consequences if it continues to do so. "We can no longer be silent about Pakistan's safe havens for terrorist organisations, the Taliban, and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond," Trump said.
"Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan. It has much to lose by continuing to harbour terrorists," he said, in a apparent warning to Pakistan.
On Monday, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had spoken with Pakistan prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, India's external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and Afghan foreign minister Salahuddin Rabbani to discuss how they can help in shaping President Donald Trump's new South Asia strategy.
Enhanced role for India
The US president reached out to India, seeking an enhanced role for New Delhi, especially in the economic field, to bring peace and stability in Afghanistan. India, the world's largest democracy, is a key security and economic partner of the United States, he said. "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, especially in the area of economic assistance and development," Trump said.
He also said that he wants to further develop strategic partnership with India to achieve country's goals in Afghanistan, saying American troops "will fight to win" and "from now on victory will have a clear definition."
Modest increase in troops in Afghanistan
Trump's plan involves a modest increase of several thousand troops.
According to Pentagon, additional troops, above current levels of about 8,500, would serve very specific purposes, including boosting training, capacity-building and allowing advisers to work more closely with Afghan soldiers along the front lines. The increase was effectively approved in June, when Trump gave defence secretary James Mattis gave the go-ahead to boost levels by as many as 3,900 troops.
US commanders would bring in additional advisers to support Afghan special forces, the Afghan air force and the Afghan army and police professional schools, such as the infantry and artillery schools, according to CNN.
With inputs from agencies
Published Date: Aug 22, 2017 08:33 am | Updated Date: Aug 22, 2017 09:00 am