US President Donald Trump today ruled out a hasty withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan to end America’s longest war, as he warned Pakistan of consequences for providing safe havens to terrorists and sought an enhanced role for India to bring peace in the war-torn country.
Trump, in his first prime-time televised address to the nation as commander-in-chief, laid out his South Asia policy saying a “critical part” of it was to further develop US’ strategic partnership with India.
He said after a “comprehensive review”, it was decided that the American strategy in Afghanistan and South Asia will change dramatically and his instinct was to pull out of Afghanistan but following months of discussion, he concluded that “the consequences of a rapid exit are both predictable and unacceptable” and would leave a vacuum that including ISIS and al-Qaeda – would instantly fill, just as happened before September Eleventh.
“We will not talk about numbers of troops or our plans for further military activities,” Trump said as he announced his South Asia policy in front of about 2,000 people from all five services and top officials of his administration.
Trump’s rejection of a rapid withdrawal from Afghanistan was being seen as backtracking from his promise to swiftly end America’s 16-year-old war in Afghanistan.
Trump slammed Pakistan for its continued support to terrorist groups and warned Islamabad of consequences if it continues to do so.
“We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organisations, the Taliban, and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond,” Trump said.
“Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan. It has much to lose by continuing to harbour terrorists,” he said, in an apparent warning to Pakistan.
Trump also noted that the threat is worse because Pakistan and India are two nuclear-armed states whose tense relations threaten to spiral into a conflict.
The US President reached out to India seeking an enhanced role for New Delhi, especially in the economic field, to bring peace and stability in Afghanistan.
India, the world’s largest democracy, is a key security and economic partner of the United States, he said.
“We appreciate India’s important contributions to stability in Afghanistan, but India makes billions of dollars in trade with the United States, and we want them to help us more with Afghanistan, especially in the area of economic assistance and development,” Trump said.0
In his speech, Trump came down heavily on Pakistan for its support to terror groups, saying Islamabad receives billions in aid from the US but continues to harbour terrorists.
“In the past, Pakistan has been a valued partner. Our militaries have worked together against common enemies. The Pakistani people have suffered greatly from terrorism and extremism. We recognise those contributions and those sacrifices,” Trump said.
“But Pakistan has also sheltered the same organisations that try every single day to kill our people,” he added.
In a statement following Trump’s address, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson echoed the president’s views on an enhanced role for India in the new South Asia strategy.
Noting that security threats the US faces in Afghanistan and the broader region are immense, Trump said 20 US designated foreign terrorist organisations were active in Afghanistan and Pakistan — the highest concentration in any region of the world.
“In Afghanistan and Pakistan, America’s interests are clear: we must stop the re-emergence of safe-havens that enable terrorists to threaten America, and we must prevent nuclear weapons and materials from coming into the hands of terrorists and being used against us,” he said.
(Inputs from PTI)