Initial reactions from the international community on United States President Donald Trump’s new policy on Afghanistan were mixed, with some viewing it as a positive step forward while others focusing on the flaws in its approach.
In his much-awaited speech on Monday night, Trump backtracked from an earlier promise to swiftly end America’s longest running war. Instead, he announced that the US would deploy more troops in Afghanistan. The US president also lambasted non-Nato front-line ally Pakistan, accusing the country of offering ‘safe haven’ to terrorist groups.
China came to Pakistan’s defence after Trump said the US “could no longer be silent” about Pakistan allegedly providing “safe havens for militants”.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying was quoted by news agency Reuters as saying that Pakistan was on the front line in the struggle against terrorism and had made “great sacrifices” and “important contributions” in the fight.
“We believe that the international community should fully recognise Pakistan’s anti-terrorism efforts,” she said at a daily news briefing.
“We are happy to see Pakistan and the United States carry out anti-terror cooperation on the basis of mutual respect, and work together for security and stability in the region and world. We hope the relevant US policies can help promote the security, stability and development of Afghanistan and the region,” Hua was quoted as saying.
Many Afghans interviewed by The Associated Press in Kabul, the country’s capital, feared that the newly announced US policy on Afghanistan will further deteriorate an already worsening situation. They expressed fears of a worsening in runaway corruption, increased unemployment and a surge in deadly attacks.
Some Afghans, however, welcomed Trump’s harsh words for Pakistan.
India, Pakistan’s arch-rival, was also welcoming of Trump’s remarks regarding provision of safe havens to terror groups allegedly operating out of its rival’s territory.
The Indian Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement that it welcomed Trump’s “determination to enhance efforts to overcome the challenges faced by Afghanistan and in confronting issues of safe havens and other forms of cross-border support enjoyed by terrorists.”
Without naming rival Pakistan, the ministry said: “India shares these concerns and objectives.”
India, the largest regional provider of reconstruction aid to Afghanistan, totaling more than $2 billion, also reaffirmed its policy of extending assistance to the country.
“We are committed to supporting the government and the people of Afghanistan in their efforts to bring peace, security, stability and prosperity in their country,” said the statement.
The UK also welcomed Trump’s commitment to step up the military campaign in Afghanistan, Reuters reported. “The US commitment is very welcome,” British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said in a statement.
“In my call with [US Defence] Secretary Mattis yesterday, we agreed that despite the challenges, we have to stay the course in Afghanistan to help build up its fragile democracy and reduce the terrorist threat to the West.”
“It’s in all our interests that Afghanistan becomes more prosperous and safer; that’s why we announced our own troop increase back in June,” he added.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO)’s Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, welcomed Trump’s new strategy and said that the US-led military alliance remains committed to the conflict-torn country.
Stoltenberg welcomed Trump’s “conditions-based approach”, referring to America’s decision to make troop presence conditional on needs rather than timelines.
More than 12,000 troops from Nato and partner countries have been helping to “train, advise and assist” Afghan security forces since January 2015 after the alliance wound down combat operations there.
Stoltenberg said that “Nato allies and partners have already committed to increasing our presence in Afghanistan.”
“Our aim remains to ensure that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for terrorists who would attack our own countries,” he said.
An Australian military analyst said Trump’s speech set a “fairly low bar” in terms of success. Military strategist David Kilcullen told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that Trump isn’t seeking to promote democracy or counter corruption, but simply noted military outcomes that he is trying to achieve.
“I think this is carefully shrouded in triumphalist rhetoric but it is actually quite a modest set of strategic goals,” Kilcullen said, adding that Trump’s speech sounded as if it had been written by military officers working in the White House.
Trump offered few specifics, such as whether more troops would be sent to Afghanistan. The president said the US would shift away from a “time-based” approach, instead linking its assistance to results on the ground.
Kilcullen said Trump’s speech focused on fighting terrorism, rather than fighting an insurgency, and that will require more use of lethal force and a restrained approach to nation-building and economic development.