WASHINGTON: American lawmakers have slammed the Trump administration for lacking a "compelling" strategy to fight terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan, even as a top military commander said that the US will have an "enduring" military and diplomatic presence in the war-torn country.
The criticism for the six-month-old administration came as Pakistan and Afghanistan were hit by suicide bombings yesterday in which 52 people died. Many more were injured. The attack in Afghan capital Kabul was claimed by the Taliban, and the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan said it targeted the provincial capital of Punjab province, Lahore. "Disgraceful we still have no strategy for Afghanistan," said Senator John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who this month visited Pakistan ahead of the Trump administration's review of the Afghan war strategy. Reports have said that the administration could be exploring to harden its approach towards Islamabad over Pakistan-based militants launching attacks in Afghanistan, where the US and NATO troops have been fighting militants for more than 16 years.
Senator Ben Cardin, ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he was concerned that even after six months in office President Donald Trump has offered "no clear or compelling strategy" to approach the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Republican Congressman Walter B Jones in a tweet released his July 21 letter to Trump, in which he demanded that the US pull out of Afghanistan. "Afghanistan is the graveyard of empires! We do not want a tombstone to read 'United States of America'," Jones said. Both the White House and the Pentagon have said that no decision has been taken on the Afghan strategy yet.
Meanwhile, Gen Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the US will not have an artificial timeline to exist Afghanistan. "There's a lot of lessons learnt from our experience over the last decade-and-a-half. One of the things is that when you put artificial timelines on things, they seldom obtain," he said at the Aspen Security Forum on Sunday night. "Any place that we have national interests or vital national interests, we're going to have an enduring diplomatic, an enduring economic, and enduring military presence," he said.
Gen Dunford said Defence Secretary Jim Mattis has not made his decision on additional forces in the war-torn country "because he wants to get the greater strategy correct". "The strategic framework looks at the area from New Delhi to Teheran with particular attention to Afghanistan and Pakistan," he said. "We cannot be successful in Afghanistan unless we have a higher degree of cooperation from Pakistan," he said.