The US plans to ramp up its troop presence in Afghanistan by 3,000 as part of President Donald Trump’s new strategy to defeat the Taliban and Islamic State militant group. Ahead of the expected release of the Af-Pak plan, the White House yesterday said Trump wants to have a winning strategy in the war-torn country. The new strategy, which has the backing of top Cabinet officials, would authorise the Pentagon, not the White House, to set troop numbers in Afghanistan and give the military far broader authority to use airstrikes to target Taliban militants, The Washington Post reported. Trump is expected to make a final call on the strategy before a May 25 NATO summit in Brussels that he plans to attend. “The new strategy would also lift Obama-era restrictions that limited the mobility of US military advisers on the battlefield,” it added.
“The new strategy is a product of the US military’s mounting worries that the fragile stalemate with the Taliban has been steadily eroding for years, jeopardising the survival of an allied government and endangering a key US base for combating militant groups such as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State throughout South Asia,” the report said. Stating that Trump’s most military and foreign policy advisors have proposed a major shift in its strategy towards Afghanistan, the report said the plan envisions an increase of at least 3,000 US troops to an existing force of about 8,400.
The US force would also be bolstered by requests for matching troops from NATO nations. According to the report, the increase in US troop level and aid to Afghanistan would be conditioned upon the efforts of the Ghani Government in Kabul to fight against corruption and improve governance. Trump, who is having a series of meetings with his top national security advisors including his national security advisor Lt Gen H R McMaster is yet to give his approval to the strategy, the daily said.
In a similar report, CNN said both McMaster and the Defence Secretary James Mattis favour troop increase in this war ravaged country. “The same source said Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, and his small contingent of nationalists are expected to push back when those recommendations hit Trump’s desk,” the news channel reported. At the same time, the strategy would retain the previous administration’s reconciliation policy with the Taliban.
Meanwhile, the White House asserted that Trump wants to have a winning strategy in Afghanistan. “I think he (Trump) wants to make sure that we do what we can to win. That’s why he charged the generals and other military advisors and national security team to come up with a plan that can get us there,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters at his daily news conference. Trump wants to defeat both the ISIS militant group and Taliban in Afghanistan, he said.
“It’s to make sure that we put our national security interests first, and defeat all of those folks that seek to do us harm,” he said in response to a question. The US President is receiving a plan and guidance from his national security team as he had asked form, he said adding that that guidance is coming forward. “He’s continued to meet with them,” he said. According to Spicer, Trump not only wants to defeat the ISIS and Taliban, he also wants make sure that the US protects its people in a responsible and smart way.
“He has talked about not projecting where he’s going and what he’s going to do to let the enemy know ahead of time…How do we achieve those key outcomes? How do we do what’s in the country’s best interest and utilise our military and our treasure to the best of our ability?
That is something that we’re continuing to work on and do, and that’s part of what he is getting briefed on and is implementing,” Spicer said. US troops are stepping up attacks on an extremist group considered an Islamic State affiliate in the country. The three most recent US deaths in Afghanistan were in combat last month against the IS affiliate, which also was the target of a US airstrike on April 13 using the “mother of all bombs”.”