Top U.S. general in Afghanistan says
Trump's plan means long-term U.S. commitment
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[August 24, 2017]
KABUL (Reuters) - The top U.S.
military commander in Afghanistan said on Thursday President Donald
Trump's new strategy is a sign of a long-term commitment to what is
already America's longest war and called on Taliban insurgents to agree
to peace talks.
"The Taliban cannot win on the battlefield, it's time for them to join
the peace process," General John Nicholson told reporters in the Afghan
capital, Kabul. "We will not fail in Afghanistan, our national security
depends on that as well."
Critics, including Trump himself during the 2016 campaign for the U.S.
presidency, have argued that Afghanistan is no closer to peace despite
billions of dollars spent on aid and nearly 16 years of U.S. and allied
In February, Nicholson told the U.S. Congress he needed "a few thousand"
more troops in Afghanistan, mostly to help advise Afghan security forces
that are battling Taliban, Islamic State and other Islamist insurgents.
Trump has now approved an extended American presence in Afghanistan,
although neither he nor his military leaders have provided any specifics
about troop numbers or timelines.
The current U.S. force for the predominantly advise-and-assist mission
in Afghanistan stands at around 8,400, well down from around 100,000
during the "surge" decided on by Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama.
Several thousand more troops are often in the country on "temporary" or
other uncounted missions.
Nicholson said new advisers from the United States and NATO coalition
allies would increase the training missions, including at specialized
military schools and expanding the Afghan air force and special forces.
[to top of second column]
U.S. Army General John Nicholson, Commander of Resolute Support
forces and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, speaks about the U.S. new
strategy for Afghanistan during a news conference in Kabul,
Afghanistan August 24, 2017. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani
He also praised Trump's decision not to impose "arbitrary" deadlines
on the American mission in Afghanistan.
"This policy announcement ... is proof of our continued commitment,"
The Taliban government was overthrown by U.S.-backed Afghan forces
in late 2001 but U.S. forces have been bogged down there ever since.
About 2,400 U.S. troops have been killed in Afghanistan.
U.S. military and intelligence officials are concerned that a new
Taliban victory would allow al Qaeda and Islamic State’s regional
affiliate to establish bases in Afghanistan.
That could allow them to plot attacks against the United States and
its allies, they fear, just as Osama bin Laden had done with the
Sept. 11, 2001, strikes that triggered the war in Afghanistan.
(Writing by Josh Smith; Editing by Paul Tait)
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