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Donald Trump decides to expand US troop strength in Afghanistan

21 August 2017

President Donald Trump is expected to announce an expansion in American troop deployment in Afghanistan, in the backdrop of the increasing Taliban menace emanating mostly from the Pakistan side of the border.

A US soldier fires an anti-tank rocket during a live-fire exercise in Zabul province, Afghanistan. (Photo: U.S. Army/flickr/cc)  

Trump, who has been accused by lawmakers of dragging his feet on Afghanistan, has settled on a new strategy to carry on the nearly 16-year-old conflict there, administration officials said Sunday.

The belated move, following a detailed review, is likely to open the door for the deployment of several thousand troops. The much-awaited policy announcement comes eight months after the Trump became the US President.

''The President has made a decision,'' Defence Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters on an overnight flight that arrived in Amman, Jordan, on Sunday. ''I am very comfortable that the strategic process was sufficiently rigorous.''

Mattis declined to say what steps the President had ordered, including on troop levels, saying that the President wanted to outline the new approach himself.

While the US policy under the Barack Obama administration focused primarily on Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Trump Administration during its policy review looked into possibilities of role and responsibilities of India.

President Donald Trump will lay out his long-awaited US strategy for the war in Afghanistan in a prime-time television address to the American people on Monday night, the White House said on Sunday, with a modest increase in US troops possible.

A White House statement said Trump's 9pm speech on Tuesday from Fort Myer, Virginia, near Washington, would "provide an update on the path forward for America's engagement in Afghanistan and South Asia."

''President Donald J Trump will address our nation's troops and the American people tomorrow night at 9:00 pm (EDT) from Fort Myer in Arlington, VA, to provide an update on the path forward for America's engagement in Afghanistan and South Asia,'' White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement.

Trump held a meeting with his national security officials at Camp David on Friday and on Saturday, the President said he has taken a decision on his new Afghan policy.

Last week, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis had said that Trump administration has almost reached a decision on a new approach for fighting the 16-year-old war in Afghanistan.

The Pentagon had earlier proposed to send approximately 3,800 additional troops to help strengthen the Afghan army, which has been waging a losing battle with the Taliban insurgency.

The Taliban offensive against the west-backed government in the country only increased Afghanistan decades-old fight against divisive forces.

Trump administration officials know well that will need to reassure the American public that American military involvement in the nearly 16-year-old conflict will not be open-ended and will help combat international terrorism.

However, they cannot also set deadlines for reducing or withdrawing American troops, a policy that President Obama followed but only helped the Afghan army and the United States to play into the hands of adversaries.

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