Donald Trump's Afghanistan policy: Republicans hail move, Taliban promises 'graveyard' for US troops

United States president Donald Trump seems to have come a long way in his stand on Afghanistan and the US involvement in the protracted war. From declaring, "We should leave Afghanistan immediately" to backtracking and saying, "You have to stay in Afghanistan for a while", the president seems to have a confused view of how the US should go forward in the war.

On Monday, he ruled out a hasty withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan and even warned Pakistan of consequences if it continues to provide safe haven to "agents of chaos". The president cleared the way for the deployment of thousands more US troops to the war-ravaged country. "My instinct was to pull out," Trump said as he spoke of his frustration with a war that has killed thousands of US troops and cost US taxpayers trillions of dollars. But following months of deliberation, Trump said he had concluded "the consequences of a rapid exit are both predictable and unacceptable" leaving a "vacuum" that terrorists "would instantly fill." "We are not nation building again. We are killing terrorists," he warned.

 Donald Trumps Afghanistan policy: Republicans hail move, Taliban promises graveyard for US troops

File image of Donald Trump. AP

A similar set of warning has come from the terrorists for the US. The Taliban warned that Afghanistan would become "a graveyard" for the United States following Trump’s decision. "If America doesn't withdraw its troops from Afghanistan, soon Afghanistan will become another graveyard for this superpower in the 21st century," Zabiullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban in Afghanistan, said in a statement.

"If America doesn't withdraw its troops from Afghanistan, soon Afghanistan will become another graveyard for this superpower in the 21st century," Zabiullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban in Afghanistan, said in a statement. He added that America should think of an exit strategy "instead of continuing the war". "As long as there is one US soldier in our land, and they continue to impose war on us, we, with a high morale, will continue our jihad," Mujahid said.

Breitbart News, owned by Trump's former chief strategist Steve Bannon, took an aggressive and critical approach to the president's policy. It said on its homepage that Trump has "reversed course" and "defended flip-flop in sombre speech."

Defence Secretary James Mattis said, "Together, we will assist the Afghan Security forces to destroy the terrorist hub. The president has provided his strategic guidance for the South Asia strategy following a rigorous review. I have directed the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to make preparations to carry out the president’s strategy."

Speaker Paul Ryan praised the president in a CNN interview for the new Afghan policy. "What I heard tonight for the first time… I think I heard a new Trump strategy or a doctrine, so to speak. Principled realism is how I think he described it," he said. Meanwhile, retired army special forces officer Michael Waltz, who served multiple tours of duty in Afghanistan, said he is proud of Trump because making potentially controversial moves like these takes true leadership, as Fox News reported.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that the United States would "stand ready to support peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban without preconditions." Senator John McCain described the strategy as "a big step in the right direction." Democrats meanwhile voiced concern with what House minority leader Nancy Pelosi called "an open-ended commitment of American lives with no accountability to the American people."

"President Trump says there will be no ceiling on the number of troops and no timeline for withdrawal," she said. New York Democratic senator Kirsten Gillibrand said Trump's speech was "terribly lacking" in details, substance and "a vision of what success in Afghanistan looks like," CNN reported.

Afghanistan, on its part, lauded the president's decision. The country's ambassador to the US Hamdullah Mohib thanked Trump for breaking America's silence on Pakistan, which has been harbouring terrorists for attacks against its neighbours. "We welcome this decision, which is the result of intense deliberations and takes into account both our countries' needs and considerations. This is the first time a focus has been put on what Afghanistan must have to succeed, and we are grateful for this outcome," Mohib said after Trump concluded his speech on Afghanistan and South Asia. Mohib said Trump has embraced a strategy that gives Afghanistan what it needs, specifically a shift away from talking about timetables and numbers to letting conditions on the ground determine military strategy.

Reacting to Trump’s harsh words, a Pakistani Army spokesperson said that his country had taken action against all Islamist militants including the Haqqani network, which is allied to Afghan Taliban. "There are no terrorist hideouts in Pakistan. We have operated against all terrorists, including (the) Haqqani network," spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor said.

India on Tuesday welcomed the US policy on Afghanistan and Trump's determination to enhance efforts to overcome the challenges facing Afghanistan and confront issues of safe havens and other forms of cross-border support enjoyed by terrorists. "India shares these concerns and objectives", external affairs ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said.

Kumar said India was also committed to supporting the government and the people of Afghanistan in their efforts to bring peace, security, stability and prosperity to their country.

With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: Aug 22, 2017 13:19:29 IST