United States President Donald Trump decided that US armed forces will continue their mission in Afghanistan towards peace and national security in a political backtrack during his presidential address on Monday.
Addressing the nation on primetime TV from Fort Myer in Virginia, Mr Trump said his initial instinct was to pull US forces out of the middle eastern country, but instead made a final decision to keep soldiers there and “fight to win” in an effort to avoid mistakes made in Iraq.
It goes against campaign promises he made in 2016 where the former presidential candidate said he would pull forces out of Afghanistan.
In regards to an eventual departure, Trump said he wanted to switch the terms from a time-based objective to a withdraw based on conditions ground-side.
White House officials told media an additional 3,800 troops will be sent to support Kabul, but Trump did not confirm a number, but said the rules of engagement will be loosened.
However, the president warned the Afghan government that it would not be a “blank cheque” effort on behalf of Washington.
“America will work with the Afghan government, so long as we see commitment and progress,” Trump told those gathered at Fort Meyer.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani welcomed Trump’s “enduring commitment”.
Trump also called on allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO, to likewise increase troop presence in the war-torn Afghanistan, especially the United Kingdom.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenburg approved of Washington’s updated stance on Afghanistan and the region on Tuesday.
“I welcome President Trump’s new, conditions-based approach to Afghanistan and the region,” Mr Stoltenburg said in a statement released on Tuesday.
The other 29 members of NATO have yet to formally respond, however, US Secretary of Defense Jamis Mattis indicated in a statement that multiple US allies have already “committed to increasing their troop numbers”.
The Taliban militant group also responded on Tuesday, saying Afghanistan will become a “graveyard” for US forces.
“If America doesn’t withdraw its troops from Afghanistan, soon Aghanistan will become another graveyard for this superpower in the 21st century,” said Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid in a statement.
“As long as there is one US soldier in our land, and they continue to impose war on us, we, with a high morale, will continue our jihad.”
Trump calls on Pakistan
President Donald Trump also called on Pakistan, who shares a 2,430 km border with Afghanistan, to support the US effort or else it would have “much to lose”.
Trump warned Islamabad that Washington would no longer tolerate Pakistan providing “safe havens” to extremists,
For Pakistan’s part, army spokesman Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor denied the accusation, telling gathered media that there are “no terrorist hideouts” in the country. He said the government operated against all terrorists, including the “Haqqani network.”
Against the campaign promise
The commander-in-chief backtracked on his campaign promise to quickly conclude the United States’ longest war in a first formal address to the nation.
After much thought, Trump said he realized “the consequences of a rapid exit are both predictable and unacceptable”, saying a quick departure from Afghanistan would leave a vacuum he believes terrorists “would instantly fill”.
Although no troop numbers were given by Trump directly on Monday, senior US officials told the media some 3,900 were authorized by the president for defense secretary Mr Mattis to send to Afghanistan.
Taliban spokesman Mujahid told AFP news agency that Trump “is just wasting soldiers.”
“For generations, we have fought this war, we are not scared, we are fresh and will continue this war until our last breath.”
The longest US war
The US sent troops to Afghanistan in 2001 in response multiple plane attacks in the United States that killed 2,996 Americans on Sept 11.
The major terror attack was orchestrated by Osama Bin Laden, the former leader of the Al-Qaeda militant group that operated out of Afghanistan.
Washington found the Taliban complicit in supporting the terror attack, and have been fighting militants on the ground since.
In 2014, the US officially ended combat operations against the Taliban, but maintain their presence through special forces. Some 8,400 US armed forces members remain in Afghanistan.