IN A SPEECH to a military audience on Monday night, US President Donald Trump outlined his change of strategy on Afghanistan.
He said: ‘A hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum that terrorists, including ISIS and al Qaeda, would instantly fill, just as happened before September 11th.’ He stressed: ‘We cannot repeat in Afghanistan the mistake our leaders made in Iraq.’
He added: ‘A core pillar of our new strategy is a shift from a time-based approach to one based on conditions. . . We will not talk about numbers of troops or our plans for further military activities. . .
‘Someday, after an effective military effort, perhaps it will be possible to have a political settlement that includes elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan, but nobody knows if or when that will ever happen. America will continue its support for the Afghan government and the Afghan military as they confront the Taliban in the field. . .
‘The next pillar of our new strategy is to change the approach and how to deal with Pakistan. . . In the past, Pakistan has been a valued partner. Our militaries have worked together against common enemies. . . But Pakistan has also sheltered the same organisations that try every single day to kill our people. We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting. But that will have to change, and that will change immediately.’
Trump said: ‘Another critical part of the South Asia strategy for America is to further develop its strategic partnership with India . . . 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.’
Finally, he said: ‘I have already lifted restrictions the previous administration placed on our warfighters that prevented the Secretary of Defence and our commanders in the field from fully and swiftly waging battle against the enemy. That’s why we will also expand authority for American armed forces to target the terrorist and criminal networks that sow violence and chaos throughout Afghanistan. . .
‘We will ask our NATO allies and global partners to support our new strategy with additional troop and funding increases in line with our own. We are confident they will.’
Referring to Afghanistan, he said that ‘we are going to participate in economic development to help defray the cost of this war to us.’ He added: ‘America will work with the Afghan government as long as we see determination and progress. However, our commitment is not unlimited, and our support is not a blank cheque.’