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American experts back Trump’s Afghan strategy and offer of larger role for India

In his address to the nation on Monday, Trump warned about a threat of conflict between India and Pakistan if terrorism wasn’t thwarted and said the US will further develop its strategic partnership with India.

india Updated: Aug 22, 2017 18:51 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
President Trump,Afghan policy,Indo-US partnership
US President Donald Trump speaks during his address to the nation on Monday. During his address he spoke about increasing strategic partnership with India.(AFP)

American experts have hailed President Donald Trump’s Afghan strategy and invitation to India to play a bigger role in Afghanistan “especially in the area of economic assistance and development.”

“I think the broad thrust of the policy is admirable, but the devil will be in the details: What is the administration actually willing to do about Pakistan? Will the US and the allies commit the resources required to build up an effective Afghan National Security Forces quickly? How will the success of the counterinsurgency mission be evaluated?,” Ashley Tellis, leading expert on Asia at Carnegie and the last word on India-US relationship said.

“These are questions still in search of answers -- and they will be coming, but for now the good news is that Trump has rejected precipitous disengagement from Afghanistan as a strategic option. That was a real possibility, but thankfully he has responded responsibly -- not as the campaigner but as the commander-in-chief.

Michael Kugelman, South Asia expert at Wilson Center said he was not surprised about Trump’s India comments that could leave Pakistan uneasy.

“I was struck by all the emphasis on “victory.” I know that Trump has to strike a confident tone, but let’s face it--emphasizing the need to win is a dangerous tactic, because this is not a war that can be won.

“I was also struck by the strong emphasis on counterterrorism. And that makes good sense. If Trump wants to sell this war to his base, then he needs to justify a long-term commitment on the need to go after terrorists that threaten American interests in Afghanistan.

“Finally, I’m struck by his comments on Pakistan and India. He talked a tough game on Pakistan, but he didn’t reveal exactly what he plans to do to get Pakistan to change its ways. I was left wanting to hear more.

“As for India - no surprise there. It makes good sense to highlight how the US and India can work together in Afghanistan. Though certainly that comment likely set alarm bells off in Pakistan.”

Read more: Trump stern on Pakistan, calls on India for support in Afghanistan: Top quotes

Alyssa Ayers, former head of India desk at the state department and a South Asia expert with council on foreign relations, welcomed India’s ‘elevation’ to a m ore prominent role as American partner in Afghanistan.

“This South Asia strategy review has been under continual revision since April/May, so it was possible that we could have ended up with something far different, like the “Viceroy” idea. Instead, it is a relief to learn that the “new” approach will have a lot of continuity with the old.

“The blunt message to Pakistan is necessary at this point since there will not be success in Afghanistan with continued terror safe havens in Pakistan, as everyone knows.

“For me, the one major departure was the elevation of India to a more prominent role as a partner in this long-running conflict. We’ve earlier heard more about diplomacy with NATO allies obviously, with China, with Russia. But despite the US-India-Afghanistan trilateral, India hasn’t been top of mind in working through the challenges in Afghanistan. That may be poised to change, which is in my view a positive step given India’s capabilities.”

First Published: Aug 22, 2017 12:01 IST