President Trump outlines Afghanistan policy in prime time address

Posted at 8:32 PM, Aug 21, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-21 23:05:23-04

FORT MYER, Virginia (CNN) — US President Donald Trump had tough words for Pakistan Monday, as he attempted to steer a new approach on Afghanistan.

“We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations,” he said in a speech at Fort Myer in Arlington, Virginia.

“We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars, at the same time, they are housing the very terrorists we are fighting … that must change immediately.”

He also called on Pakistan’s regional rival India, to “help us more with Afghanistan, especially in the area of economic assistant and development.”

“We appreciate India’s important contributions to stability in Afghanistan but India makes billions of dollars in trade from the United States and we want them to help us war with Afghanistan, especially in the area of economic assistance and development.”

Tough talk

Washington has long accused Islamabad of not doing enough in efforts to stabilize Afghanistan.

In July, Secretary of Defense James Mattis informed Congress the US was withholding $50 million in funding from Pakistan because he was unable to certify that Islamabad “has taken sufficient action against the Haqqani Network,” a branch of the Afghan Taliban.

US officials believe that much of the Haqqani leadership is based in Pakistan and some analysts believe eliminating their safe havens is critical to stabilizing Afghanistan.

Trump seemed to reference this in his speech Monday, saying that “Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan (and) much to lose from harboring criminals and terrorists.”

But analysts warn following up tough talk with effective action may be a more difficult task.

“Pakistan has ironclad immutable strategic interests which dictate maintaining ties to groups like the Taliban,” said Michael Kugelman, deputy director and senior associate for South Asia with the Asia Program at the Woodrow Wilson Center.

“It sees them as useful tools to keep Pakistan’s enemy, India, at bay in Afghanistan.”

Kugelman pointed out previous US Presidents have called on Islamabad to do more to crack down on terrorists operating within its territory.

“Trump didn’t really offer any specifics on what the US will do to get Pakistan to change its ways,” he said. “I’m left wondering will this be any different.”

New US strategy took time

Trump has previously expressed reservations about the seemingly endless US military commitment in Afghanistan and questioned the objectives of staying there.

The President reached a decision on the future of the US strategy in Afghanistan on Friday after months of deliberation.

Trump’s decision comes as Taliban militants have been resurgent in recent months, posting a series of recent gains against Afghan government forces, which are backed by a US-led coalition of NATO allies.

The United States first invaded Afghanistan on October 7, 2001, as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.

The Bush administration accused the country’s then Taliban government of sheltering al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, who had masterminded the previous month’s September 11 terrorist attacks.

The Taliban offered to hand over Bin Laden for trial, but only to a third country, rather than directly to the United States. Washington refused the offer and launched air and ground attacks, joined shortly thereafter by US allies.