News ID: 199158
Published: 0708 GMT August 22, 2017

Trump commits US to open-ended Afghanistan war; Taliban vow 'graveyard'

Trump commits US to open-ended Afghanistan war; Taliban vow 'graveyard'
US President Donald Trump announces his strategy for the war in Afghanistan during an address from Fort Myer, Virginia, US, on August 21, 2017.

President Donald Trump committed US troops to an open-ended war in Afghanistan, a decision the Afghan government welcomed on Tuesday but which Taliban terrorists warned would make the country a "graveyard for the American empire".

Having run for the White House last year on a pledge to withdraw swiftly from Afghanistan, Trump reversed course on Monday and promised a stepped-up military campaign against the Taliban who have gained ground against US-backed Afghan government forces, saying: "Our troops will fight to win," Reuters reported.

The US president also singled out Pakistan for harboring militants in safe havens on its soil.

Trump acknowledged he was going against his instincts in approving the new campaign plan sought by his military advisers but said he was convinced that leaving posed more risk.

"The consequences of a rapid exit are both predictable and unacceptable," he said. "A hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum that terrorists, including ISIS (Daesh) and Al-Qaeda, would instantly fill."

Still, he promised an end to "nation-building" by US forces in what has become American's longest war and stressed that ultimately Afghanistan's struggling police and army must defeat the Taliban.

"The stronger the Afghan security forces become, the less we will have to do. Afghans will secure and build their own nation and define their own future. We want them to succeed."

Most of the approximately 8,400 US troops in Afghanistan work with a NATO-led training and advising mission, with the rest part of a counter-terrorism force.

The United States invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 after the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, and overthrew the Taliban regime.

But the country has been torn by years of a Taliban-led terrorism. The terrorist group of Daesh has also emerged there more recently. US forces have remained bogged down there through the presidencies of George W. Bush, Barack Obama and now Trump.

While Trump said he would not discuss troop levels or details of the new strategy, US officials said on Monday he had signed off on Defense Secretary James Mattis' plans to send about 4,000 more troops to Afghanistan.

Ghani welcomes strategy

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, in welcoming the strategy, said it would increase the capacity of the training mission for Afghan forces, including enhancing its fledgling air force and doubling the size of the Afghan special forces.

The Taliban swiftly condemned Trump's decision to keep American troops in Afghanistan without a withdrawal timetable, vowing to continue war until all US soldiers were gone.

"If the US does not pull all its forces out of Afghanistan, we will make this country the 21st century graveyard for the American empire," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement.

Republican Trump, who had criticized his predecessors for setting deadlines for drawing down troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, declined to put a timeline on expanded US operations in Afghanistan.


NATO backs US plan


NATO allies also on Tuesday welcomed Trump's decision with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg saying in a statement: "NATO remains fully committed to Afghanistan and I am looking forward to discussing the way ahead with (Defense) Secretary (James) Mattis and our Allies and international partners."

NATO has 12,000 troops in Afghanistan, and 15 countries have pledged more, Stoltenberg said.

Britain, a leading NATO member, called the US commitment "very welcome".

Germany, which has borne the brunt of Trump's criticism over the scale of its defense spending, also welcomed the new US plan.

However, Russia does not believe that the Trump's strategy on Afghanistan will lead to any significant positive changes in the country, the Interfax News Agency cited an unnamed Russian Foreign Ministry source as saying on Tuesday.

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