Trump's Afghan strategy hailed in Kabul, GOP ranks; Dems skeptical

"The strength of our security forces should show the Taliban and others that they cannot win a military victory," Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said Tuesday.
By Andrew V. Pestano Follow @AVPLive9 Contact the Author   |  Aug. 22, 2017 at 8:51 AM
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Aug. 22 (UPI) -- The Afghan government and several Republicans supported President Donald Trump's announced shift in the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan -- while some Democrats cast doubt on its chances for success.

Monday evening, Trump reaffirmed the United States' commitment to the Afghan conflict and pledged to send more American troops to help fight the Taliban insurgency. He also asked India and Pakistan to help bring the Taliban to the negotiating table.

Tuesday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said he "welcomes" Trump's decision, which he said "shows an enduring commitment by Afghanistan's foundational partner in this global conflict."

"I am grateful to President Trump and the American people 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," Ghani said in a statement. "The U.S.-Afghan partnership is stronger than ever in overcoming the threat of terrorism that threatens us all.

"The strength of our security forces should show the Taliban and others that they cannot win a military victory. The objective of peace is paramount. Peace remains our priority."

During his address, Trump acknowledged that the U.S. war in Afghanistan is "the longest war in American history" and said he shares many Americans' frustration with its longevity -- though he ran for president on a platform that expressed skepticism of the U.S.'s interventionist foreign policy.

"My original instinct was to pull out, and historically I like following my instincts," Trump said. "But all my life I have heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office. In other words, when you are president of the United States."

Trump did not offer specific details about how his strategy would evolve.

Many analysts expected Trump to use the prime-time address to announce a rise in U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan.

"We will not talk about numbers of troops," Trump said of his new policy. "Conditions on the ground, not arbitrary timetables, will guide the U.S."

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said the strategy shift is necessary -- and should have been made long ago, when Barack Obama was in the White House.

"I commend President Trump for taking a big step in the right direction with the new strategy for Afghanistan. The unfortunate truth is that this strategy is long overdue, and in the interim, the Taliban have made dangerous inroads. Nevertheless, I believe the President is now moving us well beyond the prior administration's failed strategy of merely postponing defeat," McCain said in a statement. "The road ahead will not be easy, but America and the world cannot afford an Afghanistan that is under control of the Taliban and other terrorist organizations."

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said Trump's strategy will benefit Afghanistan as a sovereign nation.

"There is no substitute for American leadership," McCarthy said in a statement. "I applaud the Trump Administration for refocusing our military efforts and supporting our brave warfighters by laying out a strategy that will help produce a more secure, stable and sovereign Afghanistan."

Democrats were far less optimistic.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the president's decision will "put thousands more Americans in harm's way in Afghanistan" -- and criticized Trump's past statements on the Afghanistan conflict, including a 2013 tweet in which he said, "We have wasted an enormous amount of blood and treasure in Afghanistan. Their government has zero appreciation. Let's get out!"

"Tonight, the president said he knew what he was getting into and had a plan to go forward. Clearly, he did not. The president's announcement is low on details but raises serious questions," Pelosi said. "When President Trump says there will be no ceiling on the number of troops and no timeline for withdrawal, he is declaring an open-ended commitment of American lives with no accountability to the American people.

"The American people need to know more about the President's plans and conditions."

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