Washington: President Donald Trump has indicated that the US forces will not completely withdraw from warn-torn Afghanistan and America will have "somebody there" to make sure that Taliban does not regain control. During the presidential election campaign in 2016, Trump had pledged to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan and end America's longest war.
The Trump administration has intensified its efforts to seek a negotiated settlement of America's longest war in Afghanistan where the US has lost over 2,400 soldiers since late 2001, when it invaded the country after the 9/11 terror attacks.
"We will always have intelligence, and we'll always have somebody there," Trump told reporters at his Oval Office on Tuesday. He was responding to questions on the ongoing peace talks with the Taliban in Afghanistan. Trump said he would like to look at various alternatives.
"One of the alternatives is going on right now. We're talking about a plan -- I don't know whether or not the plan is going to be acceptable to me. Maybe it's not going to be acceptable to them. But we are talking. We have good talks going, and we'll see what happens.This is more than other Presidents have done," he said.
"We have brought it down. We are bringing some of our troops back. But we have to have a presence," Trump said, ruling out a complete withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.
He was asked, "Could we be back to where we were pre-9/11 with the Taliban in complete and total control of Afghanistan?" "Well, that's what we have to watch," Trump responded.
And if the Taliban were "really right" in what they're saying, they would stop that from happening, because they could stop that from happening very easily.
Trump said, right now, the US is negotiating with the Afghan government and with the Taliban. "We will see what happens from it, what's coming from it," he said. "The Taliban would like to stop fighting us...They've lost a lot. But we'll see what happens," he said. Afghanistan, he said is a tough place.
"The Soviet Union became Russia because of Afghanistan. That's what happened. Very simple. They became Russia because of Afghanistan. Somebody would say, Oh, well, would Russia go in? I said, If they want, let them. I think they tried that before, however. Didn't work out too well," he told the reporters.
Trump said the US is looking at different things and options in Afghanistan. "We've been there for 18 years. It's ridiculous. We have taken it down a notch. We're at about 13,000 people right now. NATO has some troops there too, by the way. We are having good discussions. We'll see what happens," he said.
The United States, he said, is not really fighting. It is almost more of a police force over there. "It's been so many years. We are like a police force. We are not supposed to be a police force," he added.
Trump reiterated that this war is not be nuclear. "We could win that war in a week if we wanted to fight it. But I'm not looking to kill 10 million people. I'm not looking to kill 10 million Afghans, because that's what would have to happen, and I'm not looking to do that," he said.
"It is a war that has been going on for almost 19 years now, and, frankly, it's ridiculous. But, with that being said, it's a dangerous place, and we have to always keep an eye on it," Trump said.
The US wants a ceasefire, but so far the insurgents have refused to recognize the Afghan government, dismissing it as a US puppet. Meanwhile, there are fears that a deal would hand the country over to the Taliban.
The United States now has 14,000 troops in Afghanistan, a number that rose after Trump, pressured by top advisers and generals who wanted more leverage over the Taliban, reluctantly ordered more troops there in August 2017.
-By Lalit K Jha