Trump’s Afghan strategy hailed in Kabul; Democrats skeptical

The Afghan government and several Republicans supported President Donald Trump’s announced shift in the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan — while some Democrats cast doubt on its chances for success.

Members of the U.S. military listen to President Donald Trump deliver remarks on American involvement in Afghanistan at the Fort Myer military base on Monday in Arlington, Va.

Monday evening, Trump reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to the Afghan conflict and pledged to send more American troops to help fight the Taliban insurgency. He also asked Pakistan to help bring the Taliban to the negotiating table and sought India’s nod on economic assistance for rebuilding Afghanistan’s infrastructure.

Tuesday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said he “welcomes” Trump’s decision, which he said “shows an enduring commitment by Afghanistan’s foundational partner in this global conflict.”

“I am grateful to President Trump and the American people for this affirmation of support for our efforts to achieve self-reliance and for our joint struggle to rid the region from the threat of terrorism,” Ghani said in a statement. “The U.S.-Afghan partnership is stronger than ever in overcoming the threat of terrorism that threatens us all.

“The strength of our security forces should show the Taliban and others that they cannot win a military victory. The objective of peace is paramount. Peace remains our priority.”

Related article: Trump seeks to make a difference in Afghanistan

Following up on Ghani’s statement, the Afghan ambassador in Washington said, “President Trump has emrbaced a strategy that gives Afghanistan what it needs, specifically, a shift away from timetables and numbers to letting conditions on the ground determine military strategy.”

During his address, Trump acknowledged that the U.S. war in Afghanistan is “the longest war in American history” and said he shares many Americans’ frustration with its longevity — though he ran for president on a platform that expressed skepticism of the U.S.’s interventionist foreign policy.

Related article: America Needs to Stay in Afghanistan

Trump did not offer specific details about how his strategy would evolve.

Many analysts expected Trump to use the prime-time address to announce a rise in U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan.

“We will not talk about numbers of troops,” Trump said of his new policy. “Conditions on the ground, not arbitrary timetables, will guide the U.S.”

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said the strategy shift is necessary — and should have been made long ago, when Barack Obama was in the White House.

“The road ahead will not be easy, but America and the world cannot afford an Afghanistan that is under control of the Taliban and other terrorist organizations.”

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said Trump’s strategy will benefit Afghanistan as a sovereign nation.

“There is no substitute for American leadership,” McCarthy said in a statement. “I applaud the Trump Administration for refocusing our military efforts and supporting our brave warfighters by laying out a strategy that will help produce a more secure, stable and sovereign Afghanistan.”

Democrats were far less optimistic.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the president’s decision will “put thousands more Americans in harm’s way in Afghanistan” — and criticized Trump’s past statements on the Afghanistan conflict, including a 2013 tweet in which he said, “We have wasted an enormous amount of blood and treasure in Afghanistan. Their government has zero appreciation. Let’s get out!”

“When President Trump says there will be no ceiling on the number of troops and no timeline for withdrawal, he is declaring an open-ended commitment of American lives with no accountability to the American people.

“The American people need to know more about the President’s plans and conditions.”

After Trump’s Afghan policy statement, China reaffirms support to Pakistan

Meanwhile in Beijing on Tuesday, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua held a meeting and agreed that Pakistan and China would continue cooperating with each other closely in efforts to establish peace in Afghanistan.

The meeting took place hours after US President Donald Trump lambasted Pakistan for allegedly offering safe haven to “agents of chaos” in his South Asia policy announcement.

Both sides emphasized the importance of the trilateral Afghanistan-China-Pakistan foreign ministers’ forum, which was established in June when Yi visited Islamabad on a mission to defuse tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The trilateral forum is apparently meant to sustain Beijing’s mediation space in Pak-Afghan disputes.

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