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Trump levels allegations against Pakistan, praises India

August 23, 2017

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump, while announcing his first Afghan-South Asia strategy on Monday, levelled allegations against Pakistan and praised India. He said America’s longest war has no end in sight and would go on.

Trump outlined the vague and obscure plan stressing that the foreign engagement with allies in the region will continue, and the US will seek military goals of the 16-year-old war instead of a political resolution. “Our troops will fight to win” he said adding, “We will fight to win. From now on, victory will have a clear definition.

“In Afghanistan and Pakistan, America’s interests are clear: We must stop the resurgence of safe havens that enable terrorists to threaten America, and we must prevent nuclear weapons and materials from coming into the hands of terrorists and being used against us, or anywhere in the world for that matter,” he said.

He delivered his change of heart in an address at the Fort Myer military base. "My original instinct was to pull out, and historically I like following my instincts, but all of my life I heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office,” Trump said. In a clear tone, he said, "We are not nation-building again. We are killing terrorists.”

Candidate Trump during the campaign had criticised America's policy towards the region and had always asked to end the military involvement abroad. He, now, expressed that more troops will be sent to Afghanistan. The numbers of the additional troops and their duration of stay has been kept secret. "We will not talk about numbers of troops or our plans for further military activities," Trump said, adding, "Conditions on the ground, not arbitrary timetables, will guide our strategy from now on. America’s enemies must never know our plans or believe they canwait us out. I will not say when we are going to attack, but attack we will."

The decision to increase the number of troops in Afghanistan was taken earlier this year. Trump is expected to authorise 4,000 more troops for counter terrorism missions. This would reverse former US president Obama's decision last year to withdraw 1,400 troops. The new forces will join the already existing 8,400 US and almost 5,000 Nato soldiers on the ground training and advising Afghan security forces. Trump said he would give military commanders the authority to act in real time and target terrorist networks. "These killers need to know they have nowhere to hide, that no place is beyond the reach for American might and American arms," he said.

“A hasty withdrawal will create a vacuum that terrorists, including ISIS and al-Qaeda, would instantly fill,” he further added. “We cannot repeat in Afghanistan the mistake our leaders made in Iraq.”

The president acknowledged Pakistan's huge human and other sacrifices but also alleged that Pakistan provides “safe havens to agents of chaos, violence, and terror.” Trump also threatened that "we can no longer be silent about Pakistan's safe-havens for terrorist organisations, the Taliban and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond.”

Announcing the next pillar of his new strategy to change approach towards Pakistan, he said, "Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan. It has much to lose by continuing to harbour criminals and terrorists. In the past, Pakistan has been a valued partner. Our militaries have worked to together against common enemies."

He said that the US has 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. No partnership can survive a country’s harbouring of militants and terrorists who target US service members and officials. It is time for Pakistan to demonstrate its commitment to civilisation, order, and to peace. Another critical part of the South-Asia strategy for America is to further develop its strategic partnership with India."

Trump also asked India to participate in the US efforts to stabilise Afghanistan. "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," he said.

"From now on, victory will have a clear definition: attacking our enemies, obliterating ISIS, crushing al-Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking over the country, and stopping mass terror attacks against Americans before they emerge.”

Secretary Rex Tillerson tried to say the same more diplomatically. "Pakistan has suffered greatly from terrorism and can be an important partner in our shared goals of peace and stability in the region,” he said in a statement sent out shortly after Trump's address. “We look to Pakistan to take decisive action against militant groups based in Pakistan that are a threat to the region." Secretary Tillerson is also expecting a deal with the Taliban with Pakistan's help.

However, the Trump administration has already taken steps to warn Pakistan of its displeasure. The Pentagon has cut down 50 million dollars in military assistance to Pakistan for not taking sufficient action against the Haqqani network. There has also been various bills in the Congress to take on Pakistan not as an ally.

"Afghans will secure and build their own nation and define their own future. We want them to succeed, but we will no longer use American military might to construct democracies in faraway lands, or try to rebuild other countries in our own image."

He insisted that the US commitment is not unlimited and its support is not a blank check. "The government of Afghanistan must carry their share of the military, political, and economic burden. The American people expect to see real reforms, real progress, and real results. Our patience is not unlimited."  

Reuters adds: Defence Secretary James Mattis said on Tuesday the Pentagon has yet to decide how many more US troops to send to Afghanistan as it is still drawing up a plan.

Mattis said he was waiting for a plan from the US military´s chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, before deciding how many more troops to send to Afghanistan, where the United States is fighting its longest war. "When he brings that to me, I will determine how many more we need to send in," Mattis told reporters during a visit to Baghdad. "It may or may not be the number that is bandied about."

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