Afghan Taliban welcome Trump’s ‘withdrawal plan’

Afghan Taliban welcome Trump’s ‘withdrawal plan’

ISLAMABAD: Afghan Taliban on Tuesday welcomed reports that the Trump’s administration is considering withdrawing US troops from the war-shattered country, contrary to earlier suggestions of a surge in troops.

The Wall Street Journal had earlier reported that President Donald Trump’s reservations about sending more troops to Afghanistan had triggered a new exploration of an option to withdraw troops.

Although no decision has yet been made and there are conflicting reports, the Taliban used their weekly commentary to welcome the withdrawal reports.

“If the US intends to withdraw all troops and publicly make announcement of such a plan, the Islamic Emirate will welcome the move and is ready for talks with the US on all key issues,” the Taliban Pashto-language commentary said on Tuesday. Taliban political sources had earlier clarified that the group had never set withdrawal of foreign troops as a pre-condition for join peace talks but insisted they “are willing for talks with the Americans to talk about a timeframe for the withdrawal of troops”.

“The US has spent nearly $780 billion on its longest war in Afghanistan. Since the war in Afghanistan has entered such a phase, it will give no result if the US spends more money and stay longer. This has no military solution as the US is not fighting a group but the whole nation,” the Taliban said.

Top American general in Afghanistan Gen John W Nicholson had told the Congress in February that he needed a few thousand additional troops as the US and NATO allies are facing a “stalemate”.

NBC reported this month President Donald Trump, frustrated that the US is “losing” in Afghanistan, is considering replacing General Nicholson.

“American generals are misleading their president and American nation that deployment of more troops or privatising the war with the deployment of Blackwater contractors could win the war, but this approach of war-mongers will also fail,” the Taliban commentary further said. The US currently has nearly 9,800 troops who are part of around 15,000 NATO forces. Reports earlier suggested the Trump administration could send additional (up to 3,900) American forces.

The Trump administration also failed to unveil its much-anticipated review for the region that was expected to be announced in July. The administration officials have failed to agree on a plan at a time when the Taliban have stepped up attacks across Afghanistan.

Senior US officials are now publicly admitting they are not winning in Afghanistan and President Trump in a recent meeting with defence officials had asked them as to why the US had been in Afghanistan for 17 years. Afghans are also seemed divided over the deployment of more troops. President Ashraf Ghani, who is now facing serious political and security challenges, support more troops and continued US financial support. However, former President Hamid Karzai opposes a surge in foreign troops and wants US and others to focus on political negotiations. He also wants Russia’s enhanced role in Afghanistan.

As the US is in a fix over its Afghan imbroglio, some American officials shift the blame on Pakistan.

Ambassador Alice Wells, who has recently assumed charge as acting assistant secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs and acting special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, during her visit to Islamabad last week “stressed that Pakistani soil must not be used to plan or conduct terrorist attacks against its neighbours,” according to a US Embassy statement. Foreign Office spokesman Nafees Zakaria had described the visit of Ambassador Wells as an important one, which he said “provides an opportunity to both sides to discuss bilateral relations” and share their perspectives on Afghanistan and the broader issues related to the region.



Published in Daily Times, August 9th 2017.