A White House official laid out more details for reporters on U.S. President Donald Trump’s path forward in America’s longest war. The senior administration official, who briefed on the condition of anonymity, detailed the role of regional and global powers in the effort; U.S. expectations of the Afghan government; and the mission additional troops aim to fulfill.
The briefing comes after President Trump spoke to the nation Monday, laying out a strategy with one essential difference from that of U.S. President Barack Obama: Trump pledged not to unveil a timeline or troop numbers in advance. Nonetheless, his strategy still maintains a U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan, puts additional pressure on Pakistan to prevent safe havens for terror groups inside its borders, and asks for more help from India.
Washington sees a role for Beijing in the overall diplomatic effort, saying it understand’s that China’s “One Belt One Road” effort to connect China to the Middle East requires stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The official says that’s a place Washington and Beijing can work together.
On the issue of Pakistan, Washington is operating under the belief that Islamabad will be more likely to evict terror groups from its borders if the U.S. commitment to the region comes with no end-date. The official would not, however, share details on Washington’s tools for “getting tough” on Pakistan, which receives billions of dollars a year in U.S. aid.
Pakistan’s Foreign Minister will be in Washington next week to meet with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
MISSION FOR THE TROOPS
Senior U.S. officials have said that the Pentagon could send up to 3,900 more troops. According to the White House official, the additional troops are likely to be tasked with training and assisting the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) “down to the tactical level.” Similarly, the official said, to how U.S. troops are assisting Iraq’s security forces in the counter-ISIL effort. The official said the troops are also expected to continue efforts to identify and target terrorist leaders and assets.
Washington expects to hear additional troop commitments from other NATO allies in this Fall’s NATO force generation conference, said the official. The White House will also ask for more money to build up the ANSF.
AFGHANISTAN GOVERNMENT REFORMS
On Monday, Trump pledged, “The American people expect to see real reforms, real progress, and real results. Our patience is not unlimited.” The White House official says Kabul and Washington are working on a Compact for Reform, focusing on improvements to security, governance, peace and reconciliation. The official lauded anti-corruption efforts in the Afghan Ministry of Defense and said they would continue at the Ministry of the Interior which administers the police.
The White House considers Afghan President Ashraf Ghani “a willing partner” in the reform effort, and said the U.S. will assist the government in its reforms, though it won’t “impose any particular system of government.”
Story includes reporting from The Associated Press