McMaster visits Afghanistan, plans full 'strategy review' of options

By Allen Cone   |   April 16, 2017 at 3:14 PM
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April 16 (UPI) -- National security adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster said in Kabul, Afghanistan, that the United States is considering a full "strategy review" of options in the country.

Two days after the United States dropped one of its largest non-nuclear bombs on an Islamic State target in the country, the retired general praised the government under Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

"In recent years, at a period of our maximum effort, we didn't have as reliable a partner in the Afghan government as we would've liked," McMaster said during an appearance on ABC's This Week. "Now we have a much more reliable Afghan partner and we have reduced considerably the degree and scope of our effort.

"Our enemy sensed that and they have redoubled their efforts and it's time for us, alongside our Afghan partners, to respond," he said.

McMaster met with Ghani at the presidential palace in Kabul, according to a statement from the Afghan president.

"If we do not fight for the repulse of that on time, it will have negative impact on next five generations," Ghani said in a statement.

McMaster described the fight by the U.S.-Afghanistan forces against the Taliban and the Islamic States as "between barbarism and civilization."

"And so really what we do from this point on is going to depend on the decision that the president makes, and he's asked our team to integrate the efforts of the various departments," he said.

He said in the past the U.S. government hasn't had "a very well stitched-together effort that combines what we're doing politically and diplomatically and militarily and economically and through -- with our Treasury and Commerce departments in the areas financing the economy ... along with the efforts our multinational partners."

He said Trump "has asked for a range options" and they will be prepared to "execute whatever decision he makes."

Ghani's predecessor, former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, has criticized the continuing U.S. military presence in Afghanistan.

On Saturday, he posted on Twitter that the U.S. bombing constituted the use of a weapon of mass destruction: "By using #WMD, the US has lost whatever claim of purpose it had. With this abuse of our soil, the US presence in Afghanistan is against interests of the of the #Afghan people."

At least 94 Islamic State fighters were killed from the bomb, Afghan officials said Saturday.

McMaster consulted with Gen. John Nicholson, the commander of U.S. Force Afghanistan, as well as senior Afghan officials and other NATO commanders overseeing the mission to advise Afghan security forces.

"The leaders discussed regional dynamics and joint efforts to counter terrorist groups, including al-Qaida and ISIS, among other topics," the U.S. Embassy in Kabul said in a statement, using an alternative acronym for the Islamic State. "They also discussed a range of bilateral issues, including joint efforts to advance a peace process, economic development, promotion of private investment, and regional trade."

Nicholson, in testimony before Congress in February, requested thousands more troops because the United States was at a stalemate in the region.

More than 8,000 U.S. troops are currently helping Afghan forces against the Taliban.


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