Trump unveils new Afghanistan policy, slams Pakistan

China backs Islamabad; India welcomes US president’s statement

IANS/PTI
Washington/New Delhi, Publish Date: Aug 22 2017 11:12PM | Updated Date: Aug 22 2017 11:12PM
Trump unveils new Afghanistan policy, slams PakistanFile Photo

President Donald Trump has unveiled his long-awaited Afghanistan policy, warning the US will take action within Pakistan if it did not stop backing terrorists battling American forces. And in a first for an American President, Trump brought India directly into the equation by assigning a strategic role for New Delhi.

In an address to the nation on Monday from Fort Myer near Washington, Trump put long-time ally Pakistan on notice with a virtual ultimatum that it "has much to lose" by backing terrorists.

He accused Islamabad of sheltering "the same organisations that try every single day to kill our people".

"We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars, at the same time they are housing the very terrorists we are fighting. But that will have to change and that will change immediately."

In an implied warning to Islamabad, he added: "These killers need to know they have nowhere to hide - that no place is beyond the reach of American arms."

Trump also asked India "to help us more with Afghanistan" and said a "critical part of the South Asia strategy for America was to further develop its strategic partnership with India -- the world's largest democracy and a key security and economic partner of the US".

The new US policy, a reversal of Trump's threats during the Presidential campaign to quit Afghanistan, was hailed by Kabul and New Delhi. But the Taliban denounced it -- so did leading figures in Pakistan.

Trump presented his strategy for the 16-year Afghanistan war, three weeks before the anniversary of 9/11 attacks on the US by the Al Qaeda which was then based in that country.

He said from the Oval Office he now saw things differently after receiving advice on Afghanistan.

But he stuck to a core tenet of his policy, limiting American missions: "We are not nation-building again. We are killing terrorists."

The Taliban warned on Tuesday that the US would lose many more lives in Afghanistan.

"If America doesn't withdraw its troops from Afghanistan soon, Afghanistan will become another graveyard for this superpower in the 21st century," Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid said.

India, which enjoys close ties with Kabul, welcomed 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".

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said he was "grateful" to Trump "for this affirmation of support for our efforts to achieve self-reliance and for our joint struggle to rid the region from the threat of terrorism".

There was no reaction from the Pakistan government but leading politicians slammed Trump.

"Blaming Pakistan will not win the war for the US in Afghanistan nor will embracing (Indian Prime Minister Narendra) Modi," said Shireen Mazari, a PTI member in the National Assembly.

Trump declared: "We will no longer use American military might to construct democracies in far away lands, or try to rebuild other countries in our own image - those days are now over."

"The next pillar of our new strategy is a change in our approach to Pakistan," he said. "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."

He added he would not set any timetables as his predecessor Barack Obama had.

"From now on, victory will have a clear definition: attacking our enemies, obliterating IS (Islamic State), crushing Al Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking over the country, and stopping mass terror attacks against Americans before they emerge."

The other danger he saw was from Pakistan's backing for terrorists against India. "The threat is worse because Pakistan and India are two nuclear-armed states whose tense relations threaten to spiral into conflict."

He said he wanted India's help but made it appear a transactional issue by referring to New Delhi's trade with the US.

India pledged a $1 billion package for Afghanistan in 2016.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson affirmed India's role outlined by Trump.

"India will be an important partner in the effort to ensure peace and stability in the region and we welcome its role in supporting Afghanistan's political and economic modernisation," he said.

 

CHINA BACKS PAKISTAN

China on Tuesday jumped to the defence of its all-weatherally Pakistan in the wake of US President Donald Trump's stern warningto it over providing safe havens to terrorists, saying that Islamabad is at the frontline of combating terrorism.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying, while reacting to Trump's comments on Pakistan, said, "Hope the relevant policy decision by US side will be conducive to promoting security, stability of the relevant region."

"(On) President Trump's remarks on Pakistan, I should say that Pakistan is at the frontline of fighting terrorism, has made sacrifices in fighting terrorism, making an important contribution to upholding peace and stability," Hua said, strongly defending Beijing's all-weather friend.

Hua, in response to Trump's scathing criticism of Pakistan's support to terror groups, said, "I think the international community should truly affirm" the efforts by Pakistan in combating terrorism.

"We are pleased to see US and Pakistan to conduct cooperation in anti-terrorism efforts on the basis of mutual respect and contribute to the global peace and stability," she said.

On Trump indicating deepening ties with India, Hua said China is happy to see the development of normal and friendly relations between the two countries as long as such a relationship does not harm other countries and is conducive to regional development.

"So we are pleased to see sound and normal relations between US and India," she said, hoping that the two sides will play a more constructive role promoting regional peace and development.

Hua skirted a direct answer to a question on whether China's policies like blocking India's membership to the Nuclear Suppliers Group and efforts to get Jaish-e-Mohammed leader Masood Azhar banned by the UN had created more space for the US to develop closer ties with India, saying its bilateral ties with India or with the US will not be targeted at a third party.

Hua also criticised India's action to block China's road building in Doklam region where the two sides are involved in a standoff.

India's move at Doklam has a negative impact in the eyes of the Chinese people, she said.

India should match its words with deeds, Hua said while calling for unconditional withdrawal of Indian troops and equipment.

Asked about the impact of Trump's decision to follow a more proactive policy in Afghanistan on China, Hua said, the "Chinese side will uphold the objective and unbiased principle to promote friendly relations with other countries, based on the merits of the matter itself".

"We hope that the Trump administration's policy adjustment will be conducive to promoting peace and stability in South Asia," she said.

"China closely follows Pakistan-Afghanistan relations. We think the stable relations between the two countries will also be helpful," Hua said.  Referring to recent trip made by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to Afghanistan and Pakistan amid Kabul's allegations that Islamabad was not cracking down on the Taliban, Hua said Wang's visit was aimed at mediating for better relations between the two countries.

During the visit, Afghanistan and Pakistan sent out goodwill messages to each other, especially in the establishment of crisis management mechanism which China is trying to operationalise, she said.

"We also appreciate and applaud the dialogue between the two countries. During the process, as a friend of these two countries, China will, within its capacity, play a constructive role," she said.

 

INDIA WELCOMES TRUMP RESOLVE

India on Tuesday welcomed US President Donald Trump's determination to enhance efforts to overcome the challenges facing Afghanistan and confront issues of safe havens and other forms  of cross-border support enjoyed by terrorists.

"India shares these concerns and objectives," External Affiars Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said.

Kumar said India was also committed to supporting the government and the people of Afghanistan in their efforts to bring peace, security, stability and prosperity to their country.

"We have been steadfast in extending reconstruction and development assistance to Afghanistan in keeping with our traditional friendship with its people. We will continue these efforts, including in partnership with other countries," he said in a statement.