President unveils new US strategy on Afghanistan, South Asia in address to nation


WASHINGTON, Aug 21 (APP): After months of deliberations that took
longer than expected, President Trump will unveil a new strategy on America’s engagement in Afghanistan and South Asia in an address to the nation slated for Monday night (US time).
The Pentagon had waited for the decision on a new policy review for
Afghanistan that will broadly cover the whole region to decide about sending nearly 4,000 additional troops to Afghanistan to bolster counterterrorism operations against militants in America’s longest war in the history.
President Trump has expressed his frustration over the prolonged war and
media reports suggest he would agree to a modest troops surge in Afghanistan to deal with growing influence of militants there. During the presidential campaign, President Trump had often spoken about the need of speedy withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.
Secretary Defense Gen. Mattis did not offer any details prior to
President Trump’s first speech to the nation on an issue which the President has said is a “big decision” for him. Mattis said President Trump wanted to himself outline the new policy.
Delay in announcing the policy has frustrated Afghan and US generals at
a time when the security situation in Afghanistan has considerably deteriorated and nearly half of the country is still under Taliban influence.
In a statement issued on Sunday, the White House said that President
Trump will address the countrymen “on a path forward for America’s engagement in Afghanistan and South Asia” in a speech at Fort Myer, Virginia Monday night.
US military commanders want additional troops in Afghanistan to reverse
the military gains by Taliban and to intensify fight against other terrorist groups like the Islamic State’s Afghan affiliate, the Islamic State in Khorasan.
Part of the new policy is likely to be dealing with militants using
border areas between Pakistan and Afghanistan to launch attacks on the US forces.
Situation in Afghanistan is of concern to the military commanders. US
Military chief in Afghanistan Gen John Nicholson told a Senate hearing in February that the US-led international troops were facing a “stalemate” in Afghanistan where as much as 57 percent of the districts were under the Afghan government’s control as of November 2016, a 15 percent decrease from the previous year.
Currently, there are about 8,400 American troops in Afghanistan in
addition to nearly 13,000 international force which is training and advising the Afghan military. About 2,000 US troops are engaged in counterterror operations along with Afghan forces.
Of many of the options that were presented to President Trump for the
Afghan policy review, according to media reports, included pulling out of Afghanistan entirely. Yet another option, according to reports, was to hire private contractors to perform some of the US military’s duties.
An Afghan intelligence officer and chief of Afghan intelligence agency
for Qarahbagh, north of Kabul, Col Abdul Mahfuz was quoted as saying on Saturday that pulling out American forces “would be a total failure”. He said he would like to see an additional 10,000 troops.