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Monday, Sep 23, 2019

India waits for details on US cut-back in Afghanistan

The Trump administration has decided to withdraw 7,000 of 14,000 American troops from Afghanistan, from America’s longest war yet at 17 years. But there has been no official announcement and, as the New Delhi source pointed out “not even a tweet” from President Donald Trump

world Updated: Dec 22, 2018 23:43 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
US troops keep watch in Afghanistan. US President Donald Trump has announced plans to halve the number of US troops in the war-torn country (REUTERS File Photo)
US troops keep watch in Afghanistan. US President Donald Trump has announced plans to halve the number of US troops in the war-torn country (REUTERS File Photo)(REUTERS)
         

As abrupt as the Trump administration’s decision was to halve the number of American troops in Afghanistan by half, India has been prepared for an “eventual” cut-back or pull-out for a long time now and would like to know the nature and time frame of the reduction to assess implications for its involvement.

There has been no formal response from India to the US decision yet. But people in the know in New Delhi said that assuming the Trump administration had indeed taken a call — “but, just to be clear, there has been no tweet or announcement as about the Syrian pullout” — India would want to see which US troops are being pulled out, those involved in counter-terrorism or those advising Afghan combat troops, or both.

And the time frame. Will they leave before the upcoming Afghan elections or after? “Leaving before could determine the nature of the elections — whether they will be free and fair — which, in turn, could determine the legitimacy and the outcome,” said a person familiar with the deliberations.

These two factors would critical to assessing the repercussion for India — “whether the troop cut would be hugely consequential or one that can be managed”.

The Trump administration has decided to withdraw 7,000 of 14,000 American troops from Afghanistan, from America’s longest war yet at 17 years. But there has been no official announcement and, as the New Delhi source pointed out “not even a tweet” from President Donald Trump. Also not available, thus, are details about the time-frame and the nature and size of remaining forces.

President Trump has been keen to pull out of Afghanistan, as was President Barack Obama, but has sought to base it on conditions and an arbitrarily drawn timeline as preferred by his predecessor. But the move to cut the troops presence has not been explained if it’s linked to improved in condition or tied to peace talks.

Even allies such as Germany and the United Kingdom who have large troops presence in Afghanistan were not consulted.

The presence of American and NATO forces has been critical for the security situation and Afghanistan and New Delhi would be following developments arising out of the Trump administration’s decision closely. “Not only do we have four consulates and an embassy there in Afghanistan, but also a large number of ongoing development projects,” said a person familiar with India’s views on the issue.

First Published: Dec 22, 2018 23:43 IST