As Washington is mulling a new strategy to combat extremism and militancy in Afghanistan, the Afghan government says it should include supporting a Kabul security plan aimed at vastly improving Afghan security forces.
“If the United States announces a new strategy, as they have promised, if they support our four-year plan, I can assure you that Afghanistan will have an army that every Afghan will count on and will be proud of,” General Dawlat Waziri, spokesperson for the Afghan Ministry of Defense, told VOA’s Afghan service.
The Trump administration is conducting a review of U.S. policy for Afghanistan where American troops have been stationed for more than 15 years. U.S. and Afghan officials have been meeting to determine the next steps.
Roughly 13,000 NATO troops, including 8,400 Americans, are deployed in Afghanistan, carrying out anti-terrorism operations training Afghanistan’s 300,000 security forces.
U.S. Army General John Nicholson, the current NATO commander in Afghanistan, is proposing to send a few thousand more U.S. troops to Afghanistan to break what he termed a "stalemate" in the fight against Taliban and Islamic State.
“General Nicholson has made his recommendation regarding troop levels to his chain of command and the decision on the way ahead is being made in Washington,” U.S. military spokesman Navy Captain Bill Salvin told VOA on Wednesday.
Afghanistan last month announced a four-year security plan to improve its security forces in the next few years to help beat the growing threat posed by Taliban and the IS’s Khorasan branch (IS-K). Kabul says it needs more U.S. and NATO trainers as well as additional military hardware.
The Afghan plan would double the special operation forces from 17,000 and upgrade what is now a division of special forces. It would also increase the country’s air force capabilities. According to Waziri, the Afghan air force is expected to soon receive up to 200 helicopters and other aircraft from the U.S. and other Western allies.
Afghan officials say additional U.S. training, support and equipment will turn the tide of the war against emboldened Taliban and IS-K.
Analysts say given the Trump administration’s priority on focusing on the war against extremism, Washington may be willing to meet Kabul’s demands.
“If the U.S. is really going to develop a policy that can shift the calculus on the ground in Afghanistan in a big way, then it will need to address many of these very ambitious asks from the Afghan government,” Michael Kugelman, a South Asia specialist at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, told VOA. “Clearly, the operative U.S. policy of recent years has not been working, so there’s a need to come up with new ideas.”
A revised U.S. policy in Afghanistan would be notably more engaged and long term than the Obama administration policy, which was focused on withdrawal deadlines and troop level caps, Kugelman said. He predicts the Trump administration “will eventually announce a policy that keeps troops in the country and arms and money flowing into the country for an extended period of time.”
Afghan officials say they are pressing Washington for consistency.
"We want a consistent policy that does not change frequently" Hamdullah Mohib, the Afghan ambassador in Washington, told VOA.
VOA’s Afghan Service contributed to this report.