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Hopeful Afghans praise Trump after vows to win war

Afghan girl looking at a man from a car's window. (File photo by REUTERS)
KABUL: Afghans met Donald Trump’s pledge to keep American boots on the ground with hope Tuesday, praising his criticism of Pakistan’s role in the grinding conflict which is exacting a heavy toll on civilians .
The US president cleared the way late Monday for thousands more troops to be deployed in the war-torn country, backtracking on his promise to end America’s longest war.
The move ignited optimism among war-weary Afghans — despite fears voiced by analysts that the decision could see record civilian casualties rise even further.
“I am very hopeful that his strategy will bring changes to the situation in Afghanistan,” Abdul Hamid Sufoot told AFP in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif.
“At least the commitment to stay in Afghanistan will give assurances to Afghans that they will not fall into the hands of terrorists again.”
“I am very optimistic. Trump’s speech was very strong,” said Mohammad Hussain Rahimi, a university student in the eastern city of Ghazni.
In his first address to the US public as commander-in-chief, Trump ruled out a “rapid exit” from Afghanistan nearly 16 years after the war began, but gave few other details.
However it was his blunt criticism of Pakistan for offering safe haven to “agents of chaos” that drew the strongest praise from Afghans across the country.
“Agree or disagree with the man, but finally someone who understands Pakistan’s double game in Afghanistan,” Murtaza Omary wrote on Facebook in one typical comment.
Afghanistan has long accused its neighbor Pakistan of bankrolling and training Taliban militants and sending them across its border to destablize the country — charges Islamabad denies.
Consecutive US administrations have also criticized Pakistan, and on Monday Trump signalled enough was enough, warning Islamabad that vital aid would be cut if it continued “housing the very terrorists that we are fighting.”
“The pressure on Pakistan... is a key issue,” journalist Tawab Mohmand told AFP in Kabul. “If they close terrorists’ safe zones in Pakistan it will widely affect the activities of the terrorists in Afghanistan.”
Some Afghans suggested the reasons for the conflict were more complex than Pakistan’s meddling, however, with corruption and a weak government contributing to the chaos.
“Afghanistan’s government has to use this golden opportunity, of (the) world’s paying attention to this country once again, and bring necessary reforms in its all institutions,” said university lecturer Jawed Aziz in Kabul.
Still others were less optimistic about the prospect of more troops ending the protracted war anytime soon.
The cost to civilians could be terrible, analysts have said. Ordinary Afghans have already paid a heavy price for the US-led war, with civilian deaths at their worst since records began in 2009.
“Trump’s strategy shows the war in Afghanistan may go on indefinitely,” a Twitter user wrote.

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