WASHINGTON: US National Security Adviser Gen H.R. McMaster said on Saturday that President Donald Trump wants Pakistan to change its ‘paradoxical’ policy of supporting the militants who are causing the country great losses.
In an interview to a conservative radio host, Hugh Hewitt, Mr McMaster also defended President Trump’s strategy on winning the war in Afghanistan by giving unrestricted powers to the US military based in the war-torn country.
US officials have often accused Pakistan of helping the militants, a charge Islamabad vehemently denies, but this marks the first time that the allegation has been attributed to President Trump.
“The president has also made clear that we need to see a change in behaviour of those in the region, which includes those who are providing safe haven and support bases for the Taliban, Haqqani Network and others,” Mr McMaster said.
“This is Pakistan in particular that we want to really see a change in and a reduction of their support for these groups. I mean, this is of course, you know, a very paradoxical situation where Pakistan is taking great losses. They have fought very hard against these groups, but they’ve done so really only selectively,” he added.
Commenting on Mr Trump’s decision to win the Afghan war, Gen McMaster said: The president has said that, “He does not want to place restrictions on the military that undermine our ability to win battles in combat.”
“He has lifted those restrictions, and you’re beginning to see the payoff of that — as well.”
The US media reported earlier this week that in a July 19 meeting at the White House, President Trump berated his generals for not winning the war in Afghanistan and for allowing it to continue for more than 16 years.
He also criticised a team of national security consultants tasked with crafting a new winning strategy for Afghanistan for failing to do so.
At the same meeting, President Trump also “repeatedly suggested” to his senior military advisers that they should replace Gen John Nicholson, the commander of US and Nato forces in Afghanistan, with a new general who could win the war.
But Gen McMaster seems to disagree with this suggestion. Asked if he had confidence in Gen Nicholson, he said: “Of course. I’ve known him for many years. I can’t imagine a more capable commander on any mission.”
Although the White House has not announced a comprehensive strategy on Afghanistan yet, Mr McMaster said “the president’s already made some important decisions on Afghanistan”.
He said Mr Trump does not necessarily want to telegraph his intentions but “you’ve heard in pieces” the strategy that he wants to implement in Afghanistan. “What we’re endeavouring to do is pull this all together in a regional strategy that makes sense,” he said.
President Trump has authorised the Pentagon to take the lead on military decisions in Afghanistan, although he formed a separate team of experts to form the new Afghan policy.
Gen McMaster defended the campaign in Afghanistan, arguing they had seen “tremendous” success in the country.
“There’s a tremendously successful campaign going on with Afghan forces in the lead. It’s an unreported campaign in Nangarhar Province of Afghanistan,” Mr McMaster said.
He said Mr Trump disagrees with the Obama administration’s strategy of announcing everything, from US deaths in Afghanistan to the deadlines for sending in or pulling out American troops from there.
“And so the president has said, ‘that is not the way to fight a war. It never has been’. This is an invention of recent years,” Mr McMaster said.
Published in Dawn, August 6th, 2017