Six Key Points of New US Policy on Afghanistan

US President Donald Trump spoke at Fort Mayer in Arlington, Virginia,  with a special appeal “to the army and the American people” on August 21. In his speech, the president outlined a radical change in the US approach to Afghanistan. What are the most important provisions of Washington’s new strategy and how it differs from the approach of the previous administration?

More US Military in Afghanistan

As Fox News reported an hour before the speech of Donald Trump at Fort Myer, the president decided to increase the American military contingent in Afghanistan by 4,000 people. This information was indirectly confirmed by the US Secretary of Defense James Mattis. “I instructed the head of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff [Joseph Dunford] to begin preparations for the implementation of the president’s strategy, I will be in contact with the NATO Secretary General [Jens Stoltenberg] and our allies, some of whom are also committed to increasing the troop strength [in Afghanistan] “- said Mattis. As of August 2017, there are 13,000 servicemen of the international coalition in Afghanistan, of which 8,400 are American soldiers and officers.

Situation Based Approach

Donald Trump said that the US actions in the region will depend on the circumstances, rather than on time constraints. “The core of our new strategy is to move from a time-based approach to an approach based on circumstances, and I have said many times about how counterproductive for the US is to declare the timing of the beginning or the end of military operations,” he said. “We will no longer talk about the number of our contingent or our plans for further military operations,” the president said. The previous administration of the White House made official statements regarding changes in the number of troops in Afghanistan.

More Authority

Perhaps the most important point of the new strategy is the expansion of the powers of the American contingent. First of all, this concerns anti-terrorist activities in the region. “We will expand the powers of the US military to fight terrorist and criminal networks,” Trump said, adding that “micromanagement from Washington” would not lead to a victory over terrorists in Afghanistan.

Refusal to “build democracy”

The president said that “the US military force will no longer be used to build democracy in remote areas or to try to rebuild other countries in its own way.” Trump described the new approach as “principled realism” and promised to continue cooperation with Washington’s partners and allies in defence of “common interests.”

Focus on Regional Cooperation

The President also separately appealed to India and Pakistan – with a call for increased cooperation on Afghanistan. “We appreciate India’s important contribution to [rebuilding] stability in Afghanistan, India is making billions of dollars through trade with the US, and we want it to help us with Afghanistan more, especially in the area of economic support and development,” he said. In addition, Trump warned Islamabad about the inadmissibility of providing shelter to terrorists on its territory. “Pakistan can get a lot if it joins our efforts in Afghanistan, and it will lose a lot if it continues to harbor terrorists,” Trump said.

No Pre-Conditions for Dialogue

Another aspect of Washington’s new strategy was no longer the president, but Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. “We are ready to support peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban without any preconditions,” he said. Similar statements were made also by the administration of Barack Obama, but during this time the Taliban’s power in Afghanistan only strengthened. According to the findings of the US Department of State inspector on reconstruction in Afghanistan, John Sopko, the authorities in Kabul in November 2015 kept under full control 72% of the country’s territory, and by November 2016 this figure was reduced to 57%.