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Afghan situation calls for review of strategy, says US general

Updated May 12, 2017 06:59am

WASHINGTON: US defence secretary and the head of its armed forces have said that the situation in Afghanistan, where the insurgency has persisted despite efforts to eradicate, necessitate the review of Washington’s Afghan policy.

“The situation is clearly not moving in the direction Afghan President Ashraf Ghani wants it to,” said Gen Joe Dunford, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“First of all, in Afghanistan, we’re up against a determined enemy,” said Defence Secretary Jim Mattis while responding to a question about the situation in the war-torn country.


The new report includes a proposal for sending 3,000 to 5,000 US troops to Afghanistan


The Department of Defence also said that Secretary Mattis and Gen. Dunford would soon brief President Donald Trump on the Pentagon’s plans for defeating the Afghan insurgents.

On Tuesday, the White House national security team presented to President Trump its report on the new US strategy for Afghanistan. The report includes a proposal for sending 3,000 to 5,000 additional US troops to Afghanistan and for seeking more troops America’s Nato allies as well.

President Trump is expected to make a decision on the new Afghan policy before a May 25 Nato summit in Brussels where he will discuss the strategy with NATO leaders.

Speaking at a joint news conference in Copenhagen with Secretary Mattis earlier this week, Danish Defence Minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen said that Denmark was willing to send troops to Afghanistan.

Secretary Mattis said both the militant Islamic State group and AlQaida were losing ground and power in Afghanistan as the Afghan government “wins the affection, the respect and the support” of people.

While talking to reporters in Jerusalem earlier this week, Gen Dunford said when Secretary Mattis and he meet the president, “one of the key discussions we are going to have is what are the horizons for the mission in Afghanistan and how do we articulate it”.

The general said that any increase in the Nato and US mission to Afghanistan must be viewed in context. In the past year, Afghan forces took heavy casualties in the fight against the insurgents and Gen John M. Nicholson, the commander of Operation Resolute Support in Afghanistan, described the situation in Afghanistan as a “stalemate” during testimony before Congress last month.

The Pentagon report said that President Trump had discussed the new strategy with Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg, and the organisation has begun conversations with troops contributing nations. Gen Dunford will also visit Brussels next week to speak with fellow Nato chiefs of defence while Secretary Mattis is already there, meeting the ministers of defence for the counter-IS coalition.

Gen Dunford underlined the need for a holistic approach that covers force levels, new authorities, new capabilities, economic reforms and political aspects.

He pointed out that IS-Khorasan and almost 20 other designated terrorist groups were active in the Central Asia/South Asia region. “I also know they have aspirations to conduct attacks, and an ungoverned space in Afghanistan or South Asia would be contrary to our interests,” he added.

Published in Dawn, May 12th, 2017