WASHINGTON: The new strategy on fighting the 16-year-old war in Afghanistan will be announced soon, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said here, about a policy review that has delayed a decision on sending more American troops to the war-torn country fighting a prolong Taliban insurgency.
The US military and civil leaders are scheduled to meet President Trump on Friday at Camp David to discuss the much-awaited strategy that has been debated for months and has surprised US and Afghan military commanders as to why it’s taking so long to take a decision at a time when security is deteriorating in Afghanistan.
Gen Mattis told reporters at the State Department on Thursday that the administration was getting closer to announcing the new strategy on Afghanistan that will also impact the regional countries, including Pakistan and India. “We will meet with the President – Secretary (Rex) Tillerson and I and several others on the national security team. We will move this toward a decision – we are coming very close to a decision and I anticipate it in the very near future,” he said while responding to a question.
Gen Mattis, however, gave no hint as to what the strategy will look like in dealing with a situation in Afghanistan after a prolonged war that has irritated President Trump, who had even suggested, according to media reports, to replace the US commander in Afghanistan, Gen Nicholson, according to media reports.
Speaking to reporters last week, President Trump criticized the policy of his predecessor, President Barack Obama saying that he took over a “mess” and that his administration was going to “make it a lot less messy”. He said that the Afghan policy was a big decision for him.
A delay in announcing a new strategy has also held back a decision on troops surge in Afghanistan. A few months ago, President Trump allowed the Pentagon to take a decision which had reportedly agreed to send about 3,800 additional troops to support the Afghan army.
But, the Pentagon had since held back on the decision as US military commanders said they will wait for a new policy review on Afghanistan by President Trump before taking a decision on sending more troops. Some close aides of President Trump are opposing the wisdom of investing more resources in America’s ever-longest war in history.
The Trump administration has indicated that the policy review on Afghanistan will have a broader connotation for the region, including Pakistan and India. A recent report by the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction has painted a gloomy picture for the country, with almost half the country still under Taliban control and influence.
Currently, the US has about 8,400 troops in Afghanistan which are primarily training and advising Afghan forces, and are also hunting down al-Qaida and other extremist groups.