Troops, Reforms, Regional Role Define Afghanistan Plan - U.S. Institute of Peace
Along with military pressure to coax the Taliban into a peace process, the new U.S. plan for Afghanistan will support government reforms such as tackling corruption, economic development to make the country less dependent on foreign aid and diplomacy to persuade Pakistan to help—rather than hurt—the cause, top U.S. officials said in a briefing at the U.S. Institute of Peace.
“We’re not looking at nation-building or economic development as an end in itself,” said one of four senior administration officials who briefed two dozen policy experts from a range of research institutions to explain and respond to questions about the plan President Trump announced in a prime-time television address on Aug. 21. But support to Afghanistan is “necessary to protect the ultimate goal of a stable Afghanistan, where the government is in control of the territory and terrorists cannot set up shop there.”
The briefing aimed to add details to the military, political and economic plan the new administration will pursue to achieve the goal, which one official described as “a political settlement between the Afghan government and the Taliban that protects vital U.S. national security interests.” The officials spoke on condition they not be identified by name, to allow a more candid discussion.
The plan calls first of all for increasing military pressure on the Taliban to reverse some of its gains in recent years, as the militants have retaken parts of Helmand Province in the south and briefly twice seized control of the major northern city of Kunduz. ISIS, too, has made inroads, prompting the U.S. to drop its largest non-nuclear bomb for the first time in combat in April, to destroy a system of bunkers and tunnels the group was using in Nangarhar Province in the country’s east. The influence of ISIS also is turning more Taliban members to further extremes, one of the senior officials said.
Trump’s announcement this week didn’t specify the number of American troops that might be added to the current contingent of 8,400, down from a peak of 100,000 in 2010-2011, but news reports say the Defense Department has authorization to add as many as 3,900. The U.S. will work with Afghan forces to step up counter-terrorism operations and to increase training, advising and assistance, the senior officials said. NATO allies and partners also will continue their contributions to the mission, they said…