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China defends Pakistan against Trump’s criticism

By Agencies
August 23, 2017

BEIJING: China on Tuesday defended Pakistan against strong criticism by Donald Trump that the country is not doing enough to counter terrorism.

In a major speech outlining the US policy on Afghanistan, the American president slammed Islamabad for offering safe haven to "agents of chaos".  But Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying took a contrary view, telling reporters that Pakistan "has made great sacrifices and contributions to fighting terrorism.

"The international community should fully affirm the efforts by Pakistan," she told a regular press briefing. Russia does not believe that Donald Trump’s new 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.

German defence minister said Germany will not immediately send more troops to Afghanistan in response to Trump’s request for more backing.

Ursula von der Leyen welcomed Trump’s commitment to continuing the US mission, but said Germany would not be among the first nations to contribute more. "We increased our troop numbers by 18 percent last year when others were cutting theirs," she said during a visit to a submarine base in north Germany on Tuesday. "So we don’t see ourselves in the front row of people who should be asked for more soldiers."

Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed President Donald Trump’s decision to dispatch more troops to Afghanistan. "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," Stoltenberg said in a statement. Nato has 12,000 troops in Afghanistan, and 15 countries have pledged more, Stoltenberg said.

Britain welcomed commitment by Trump to step up the military campaign against Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan. Britain along with other European allies pledged more troops to support Afghanistan’s military in June, with "The US commitment is very welcome," British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said in a statement.

"In my call with Secretary Mattis yesterday we agreed that despite the challenges, we have to stay the course in Afghanistan to help build up its fragile democracy and reduce the terrorist threat to the West. It’s in all our interests that Afghanistan becomes more prosperous and safer: that’s why we announced our own troop increase back in June."

Afghan leader Ashraf Ghani also welcomed Trump’s new strategy. "I am grateful to President Trump and the American people for this affirmation of support for our joint struggle to rid the region from the threat of terrorism," Ghani said in a statement.

Ghani said the new strategy would increase the capacity of the training mission for Afghan national security forces, including enhancing its fledgling air force and doubling the size of the Afghan special forces.

India said it shares Washington’s concerns about a safe haven for terrorists in its backyard. "We welcome President Trump’s determination to enhance efforts to overcome the challenges facing Afghanistan and confronting issues of safe havens and other forms of cross-border support enjoyed by terrorists," the Indian foreign ministry said in a statement. 

"India shares these concerns and objectives."  Meanwhile, Taliban warned that Afghanistan would become "a graveyard" for the US.

"If America doesn´t withdraw its troops from Afghanistan, soon Afghanistan will become another graveyard for this superpower in the 21st century," Zabiullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban in Afghanistan, said in a statement. 

He added that America should think of an exit strategy "instead of continuing the war". "As long as there is one US soldier in our land, and they continue to impose war on us, we, with a high morale will continue our jihad," Mujahid said.

Earlier, Mujahid had dismissed the strategy as vague and "nothing new". "For now I can tell you there was nothing new in his speech and it was very unclear," he told AFP.