President Donald Trump has said that he is close to taking a decision on Afghanistan, for which his administration is carrying out a review of policy, with senator John McCain unveiling his own plan for the war-torn country.
“We are getting close. We’re getting very close. It’s a very big decision for me,” Trump told reporters on Thursday at Bedminster in New Jersey, where he is on a vacation. “I took over a mess, and we’re going to make it a lot less messy. But that has been a place—17 years, our longest war, I read in one of your columns. And, frankly, it’s going to be a decision that’s going to be made very soon,” Trump said without giving a timeline for the policy review.
The state department said the US’ Afghan policy review is still under way. “There have been a lot of conversations and negotiations with the president’s national security team. Of course, that includes secretary (of state) Tillerson as part of that,” state department spokesperson Heather Nauert said.
“We are looking at this as not just a solution to Afghanistan, but also a broader concern that incorporates India and Pakistan as well as a regional solution. We just don’t have that plan,” she said in response to a question.
Earlier in the day, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee John McCain said that the US is losing in Afghanistan as he unveiled his own strategy for the war-torn country. “We must face facts, we are losing in Afghanistan and time is of the essence if we intend to turn the tide,” McCain said as he announced introducing the new Afghan strategy as an amendment to the National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA) 2018, which is slated to come up for discussion before the Senate next month.
The goal of this strategy, he noted, is to ensure that Afghanistan never again becomes a sanctuary for terrorists to plot and conduct attacks against America, its allies, or their’s. “To accomplish this goal, we need an integrated civil- military approach to bolster US counter-terrorism efforts, strengthen the capability and capacity of the Afghan government and security forces, and intensify diplomatic efforts to facilitate a negotiated peace process in the country in cooperation with regional partners,” he said.
Calling for an enduring American troop presence in Afghanistan, McCain has proposed tough measures against Pakistan for its continued support to terrorists. “Imposing graduated diplomatic, military, and economic costs on Pakistan as long as it continues to provide support and sanctuary to terrorist and insurgent groups, including the Taliban and the Haqqani Network,” said the McCain strategy on Afghanistan.
Simultaneously, he proposed outlining the potential benefits of a long-term US-Pak strategic partnership that could result from the latter’s cessation of support to all terrorist and insurgent groups and constructive role in bringing about a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Afghanistan. He also called for an intensification of American regional diplomatic efforts working through flexible frameworks for regional dialogue together with Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, India, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and other nations to promote Afghan political reconciliation.
Calling for increasing the number of US counter-terrorism forces in Afghanistan, McCain proposes providing the US military with status-based targeting authorities against the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, al-Qaeda, the Islamic State, and other terrorist groups that threaten the United States, its allies, and core interests.
America is adrift in Afghanistan. President Obama’s “don’t lose” strategy has put the US on a path to achieving the opposite result, McCain said. “Now, nearly seven months into President Trump’s administration, we’ve had no strategy at all as conditions on the ground have steadily worsened. The thousands of Americans putting their lives on the line in Afghanistan deserve better from their commander-in-chief,” he said.