Top American lawmakers and foreign policy experts today welcomed President Donald Trump’s new Afghan policy and his tough stand on Pakistan’s support to terror groups, calling it a “big step”. Trump, in a prime-time televised address to the nation, ruled out a hasty withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan to end America’s longest war, as he warned Pakistan of consequences for providing safe havens to terrorists and sought an enhanced role for India to bring peace in the war-torn country. He also laid out his South Asia policy saying a “critical part” of it was to further develop US’ strategic partnership with India. US Senator John McCain said he believes the President is now moving well beyond the prior administration’s failed strategy of merely postponing defeat. “It is especially important that the newly announced strategy gives no timeline for withdrawal, rather ensures that any decision to reduce our commitment in the future will be based on conditions on the ground. The President is also correct to frame this new effort as a comprehensive regional strategy,” McCain said. “I commend President Trump for taking a big step in the right direction with the new strategy for Afghanistan. The unfortunate truth is that this strategy is long overdue, and in the interim, the Taliban has made dangerous inroads,” McCain, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said in a statement. Senator John Cornyn, Co-Chair of the Senate India Caucus said speech by Trump is a way forward with Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. Senator Bob Corker, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said the new policy also utilises a conditions-based approach for US military, which should lead to better diplomatic outcomes and ensures engagement with regional partners, especially Pakistan and India, giving America a better opportunity for success. “The president has been clear that we must put pressure on our regional partners, specifically Pakistan and India, and work with us to prevent Afghanistan from once again becoming a hotbed of international terrorist activity, as before September 11.
This new strategy will begin to correct the course from eight years under the Obama administration of premature drawdowns and ambivalence to the mission,” said Senator Jim Inhofe. However, Democratic Senator from Connecticut Chris Murphy was skeptical of the new policy. “You can’t announce a strategy that relies on complicated diplomacy with Pakistan/India/Afghanistan when you’re firing all the diplomats,” he tweeted. “This announcement revealed troubling shifts in foreign policy and our relationships in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India,” said Congressman Bonnie Watson Coleman. “Pressure must be increased on Pakistan to end its support for extremist groups like the Haqqani Network, LeT and JeM that fuel so much of the violence in the region. The Afghan government has a central leadership role to play, with our help, in advancing a reform process and serious anti-corruption efforts.” Meanwhile, former Pakistan Ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani said that Trump has acknowledged what Americans have known for some time. Pakistan’s regional goals as identified by its powerful military are at variance with America’s interests. “Trump has clearly decided that he will not let Pakistan block peace and stability in Afghanistan, and endanger itself in the process, while retaining its status as a US ally,” Haqqani told PTI. Alyssa Ayres, a former state department official during the Obama administration hailed the prominence Trump accorded to India. “The place of prominence the president accorded to India, as an important partner in stabilising the region, is the biggest and most promising departure in my view. The US and India have consulted on Afghanistan, including in a trilateral, but could definitely work more closely together,” Ayres said.
Trump’s strongly worded remarks on Pakistan was also welcomed by several Indian-Americans. “He (Trump) had a clear pressure message for Pakistan leadership to stop harbouring terrorist and criminals,” said Puneet Ahluwalia, who was one of the Indian Americans in Trump Campaign’s Asian American Advisory Committee. “Afghanistan and its people have to play a responsible and nation building role themselves with support from US and India. A targeted message on Killing Terrorist with power resolve courage pride and commitment of US forces and their Generals to do their job,” he said. On Trump’s strategy on Afghanistan, an influential American Congressman sought an end to destabilising activities from Pakistan. “Given the ongoing terrorist threats, we need a credible US military presence in Afghanistan and an equally strong diplomatic strategy. This must include pressing neighbouring Pakistan – which remains a fount of radical Islamist thought – to put an end to its destabilising activities,”
Congressman Ed Royce, Chairman of the powerful House Foreign Affairs Committee said. “The stakes in Afghanistan are too high, and we’ve sacrificed too much, to come up short,” said Royce who in the past have been pushing for a strong US policy against Pakistan. Congressman Bill Johnson said he is encouraged that Trump is wisely deferring to his military commanders when it comes to his administration’s Afghanistan policy. “Tonight, President Trump said, ‘We are not nation building again… we are killing terrorists. It’s a message that our military and the majority of the American people have been waiting to hear. And, President Trump is correct on another point regarding Afghanistan’s neighbour – it’s time for Pakistan to step up in combating radical Islamic terrorism,” he said.