WASHINGTON: The Trump administration has apparently completed its review of the US Afghan policy and the new policy calls for providing at least $23 billion a year to sustain the US-backed set-up in Afghanistan.

The new policy also calls for sending more US and Nato troops to defeat the militants who have killed more than 800 Afghan troops in the first two months of this year alone.

“While no troop numbers have been set, US officials told me they would envision an increase in both US and Nato forces inside the country,” writes Eli Lake, a columnist for the Bloomberg news agency.

Mr Lake argues that while some in the United States may think that the proposed $23bn of annual aid is “expensive”, they should “bear in mind the untold costs if the US instead failed to support Afghanistan’s recovery and the country became a safe haven for terrorists like it was before 9/11”.

The aid will be used to support a variety of initiatives in Afghanistan, such as subsidising Afghan police and military forces, funding anti-corruption programmes and other priorities for strengthening the present set-up.

Some media reports claim that the Trump administration is also working on a plan to eliminate the Afghan branch of the militant Islamic State (IS) group, which came to the region from the Middle East.

The plan calls for rooting out local offshoot of IS — also known as Islamic State-Khorasan, or IS-K — before battle-hardened reinforcements arrive from Syria and Iraq.

Other US media reports suggest the Trump administration would also back Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s ambitious plan to build an inclusive government and regain territory from the Taliban.

The US policy, however, emphasises the need for an eventual peace deal with the Taliban but to force the group to accept a workable deal, it suggests increasing military attacks on militant holdouts.

The reports claim that the new strategy would not set arbitrary deadlines for withdrawing US and Nato forces from Afghanistan, as the Obama administration did. The Trump administration believes that setting up deadlines also gives a timeline to the militants to sustain their activities, hoping to outlive the US presence in Afghanistan.

Instead, the new strategy would link the US military presence in Afghanistan to the situation on the ground.

Published in Dawn, May 3rd, 2017

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