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Posted On : 22 Aug, 2017  Source : PTI  Place : Washington 
Trump rejects US pull-out from Afghanistan, warns Pakistan
 Ruling out a hasty withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, President Donald Trump today issued the sternest warning yet by an American leader to Pakistan for providing safe havens to terrorists and sought an enhanced role for India to bring peace in the war-torn country.

Trump, in his first prime-time televised address to war- weary Americans as commander-in-chief, laid out his South Asia policy saying a "critical part" of it was to further develop US' strategic partnership with India.

He said after a "comprehensive review", it was decided that the American strategy in Afghanistan and South Asia will change dramatically and American troops will "fight to win" America's 16-year-old war.

"From now on, victory will have a clear definition: attacking our enemies, obliterating ISIS, crushing al-Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking over the country, and stopping mass terror attacks against Americans before they emerge," he said of his new Afghanistan strategy.

Trump said his instinct was to pull out of Afghanistan but following months of discussion, he concluded that "the consequences of a rapid exit are both predictable and unacceptable" and would leave a vacuum that terror groups including ISIS and al-Qaeda - would instantly fill.

"A core pillar of our new strategy is a shift from a time-based approach to one based on conditions. I've said many times how counterproductive it is for the United States to announce in advance, the dates we intend to begin, or end, military operations," Trump said in his 26-minute speech.

"We will not talk about numbers of troops or our plans for further military activities," Trump said at Fort Myer in Arlington, Virginia, in front of about 2,000 people from all the five services and top officials of his administration.

Trump said another pillar of his new strategy was a change in America's approach to Pakistan, considered a long- time ally of Washington.

"For its part, Pakistan often gives safe haven to agents of chaos, violence, and terror. The threat is worse because Pakistan and India are two nuclear-armed states whose tense relations threaten to spiral into conflict. And that could happen," Trump said.

Trump slammed Pakistan for its continued support to terrorist groups and warned Islamabad of consequences if it continues to do so.

"We can no longer be silent about Pakistan's safe havens for terrorist organisations, the Taliban, and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond," Trump said.

"Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan. It has much to lose by continuing to harbour terrorists," he said, in a warning to Pakistan.

Meanwhile, in New Delhi, the Ministry of External Affairs, welcomed Trump's remarks calling for a crackdown on terror safe havens.

"We welcome President Trump's determination to enhance efforts to overcome the challenges facing Afghanistan and confronting issues of safe havens and other forms of cross- border support enjoyed by terrorists. India shares these concerns and objectives," it said.

The US President, in his address, also reached out to India seeking an enhanced role for New Delhi, especially in the economic field, to bring peace and stability in Afghanistan.

India, the world's largest democracy, is a key security and economic partner of the United States, he said.

"We appreciate India's important contributions to stability in Afghanistan, but India makes billions of dollars in trade with the United States, and we want them to help us more with Afghanistan, especially in the area of economic assistance and development," Trump said.

"We are committed to pursuing our shared objectives for peace and security in South Asia and the broader Indo-Pacific region," said the US President.

Trump said he initially wanted to withdraw from Afghanistan, but decided against his first instinct based on the ground realties, his extensive study of the problem and consultations with his top national security team.

The US currently has about 8,500 troops on the ground in Afghanistan and is likely to add another 4,000.

"My original instinct was to pull out and, historically, I like following my instincts," Trump said.

Trump said he shares the American people's frustration over a foreign policy that has spent too much time, energy, money, and most importantly lives, trying to rebuild countries in America's own image, instead of pursuing its own security interests above all other considerations.

Trump said in 2011, America hastily and mistakenly withdrew from Iraq.

"As a result, our hard-won gains slipped back into the hands of terrorist enemies...the vacuum we created by leaving too soon gave safe haven for ISIS to spread, to grow, recruit, and launch attacks. We cannot repeat in Afghanistan the mistake our leaders made in Iraq," he said, in an apparent jibe at his predecessor Barack Obama.

Trump's rejection of a rapid withdrawal from Afghanistan was being seen as backtracking from his promise to swiftly end America's war in Afghanistan.

In his speech, Trump came down heavily on Pakistan for its support to terror groups, saying Islamabad receives billions in aid from the US but continues to harbour terrorists.

"In the past, Pakistan has been a valued partner. Our militaries have worked together against common enemies. The Pakistani people have suffered greatly from terrorism and extremism. We recognise those contributions and those sacrifices," Trump said.

"But Pakistan has also sheltered the same organisations that try every single day to kill our people," he added.

Trump noted that Pakistan continues to house the very terrorists that America is fighting.

"But that will have to change. That will change immediately. No partnership can survive a country's harbouring of militants and terrorists who target US service members and officials. It is time for Pakistan to demonstrate its commitment to civilisation, order, and to peace," Trump said, in remarks that are the sternest yet by an American president against Pakistan's support to terrorism.

In a statement following Trump's address, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson echoed the president's views on enhanced role for India in the new South Asia strategy.

"India will be an important partner in the effort to ensure peace and stability in the region, and we welcome its role in supporting Afghanistan's political and economic modernisation," he said.

Tillerson also urged Pakistan to take decisive action against terror groups.

"Pakistan has suffered greatly from terrorism and can be an important partner in our shared goals of peace and stability in the region," he said.

"We look to Pakistan to take decisive action against militant groups based in Pakistan that are a threat to the region. It is vital to US interests that Afghanistan and Pakistan prevent terrorist sanctuaries," Tillerson said.

Top Trump administration officials were present as the US President delivered his address to the nation.

Prominent among those present were Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, National Security Advisor Let Gen H R McMaster, and Vice President Mike Pence.

Noting that security threats the US face in Afghanistan and the broader region are immense, Trump said 20 US designated foreign terrorist organisations were active in Afghanistan and Pakistan the highest concentration in any region of the world.

"In Afghanistan and Pakistan, America's interests are clear: we must stop the re-emergence of safe-havens that enable terrorists to threaten America; and we must prevent nuclear weapons and materials from coming into the hands of terrorists and being used against us," he said.

Trump said he has already lifted restrictions the previous administration placed on US' war-fighters that prevented the Secretary of Defence and its commanders in the field from fully and swiftly waging battle against the enemy.

"We will no longer use American military might to construct democracies in far away lands, or try to rebuild other countries in our own image those days are now over.

Instead, we will work with allies and partners to protect our shared interests," Trump said.

Trump also indicated that the latest terrorist attack in Barcelona might have played a role in his decision making process.
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