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US set to unveil strategy for Afghanistan war

File photo shows a US Marine walking near Afghan National Army soldiers trainingin Helmand province. (Reuters)

KABUL: When US President Donald Trump assumed office, many expected that one of his top priorities would be charting a new strategy for the Afghan conflict, the longest war in America’s history and one which many, including some US officials, concede is on a path to failure.
Amid deep uncertainty about future US involvement in Afghanistan, rising division among Afghan government leaders and the expansion of activities by both the Taliban and Daesh affiliates, Trump is set to announce a belated strategy in the coming days, after long discussion with top military brass.
Given Trump’s unpredictability, some Afghans fear he may choose the option of total disengagement, after 16 years of war achieved little on the battlefield.
“Trump has had a vague policy on Afghanistan, so one cannot say for sure what he would do,” Taj Mohammad Ahmadzada, deputy director of Afghan journalists’ union, told Arab News.
“If for whatever reason, Trump announces total disengagement from Afghanistan, then that will mean the US is accepting its defeat in Afghanistan after so much loss of cash, blood and resources.”
Daesh, after its defeat in Iraq and Syria, will turn its attention to Afghanistan, Ahmadzada argues, adding that US prestige will suffer deeply internationally, as with the former Soviet Union following its withdrawal from Afghanistan in the 1990s.
Targeting militants’ sanctuaries in Pakistan and compelling Islamabad to drop its support for the insurgents needs to be part of Trump’s strategy, Ahmadzada suggested.
Dawlat Waziri, the Afghan Defense Ministry’s chief spokesman, told Arab News that Trump needed to pursue a three-pronged approach to turn Afghanistan into a success story.
“The proper way for a new strategy is strengthening of the Afghan security forces, targeting terrorists’ havens and beginning a peaceful approach with the armed opposition,” he said.
“Any strategy lacking these points will not be effective. This is not the war of Afghans, it is the US and NATO’s war. Abandoning the war means the region, West and America will (also) be affected by insecurity.”
Mohammed Umar Daudzai, a former Afghan interior minister has warned that US disengagement would pose a serious risk.
“The state is ... unable to hold itself without international sustenance. It is the fear the country could slip back into chaos in (the) case of abrupt absence of troops (and) foreign boots on the ground,” Daudzai argued in a discussion paper.
“Western capitals are getting increasingly frustrated with the prolonged crisis, yet abandoning Afghanistan is still not an option. The Soviet Union’s biggest mistake was moving into Afghanistan. The US’ biggest mistake will be to leave Afghanistan unattended and unguarded.”
The Taliban, which has made some gains in exploiting the rising division within the US-backed government of President Ashraf Ghani, said pulling foreign troops was the only option for ending the war.
“Our stand about (the) coming US strategy is that American authorities should not bow down to warmongering demands of evil circles, should give up Afghanistan’s occupation so that both America and Afghanistan become relieved,” Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the group, said in a message.
“This war is not in one’s benefit; the past 16 years showed that it is hazardous to stand in the way of a country’s independence. The future American strategy needs to focus (on solving) the issues through diplomatic ways and the policy of pressure and forces should be avoided.”
He said the Taliban wanted to have good relations with the world, including the US, but emphasized that war will end only when troops pull out.
Current and former US officials have come up with various suggestions in order to prevent the war from becoming a total fiasco.
Some push for privatization of the war by a private American security company that has already earned international notoriety with its past involvement in both the Afghan and Iraq wars.
A group of politicians demand the posting of more US troops in a bid to turn the tide, despite the presence of US and coalition soldiers — which peaked at around 140,000 — having failed to crush the backbone of the Taliban. Some others demand hitting training centers and bastions for the militants in neighboring Pakistan.
The costly and bloody war in Afghanistan has killed tens of thousands of Afghans, but only several thousand US and coalition troops.
Ronald E. Neumann, who served as Washington’s ambassador to Afghanistan from 2005 until 2007, said in an opinion article in Washington that “much of the rush to failure has been Washington-driven.”