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Kabul-Taliban settlement eventual goal: Tillerson

By Anwar Iqbal 2017-04-02
WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson has indicated that an eventual settlement between the Afghan government and the Taliban is the ultimate goal of the Trump administration.

The comments included in his address to America`s Nato allies in Brussels on Friday give first insight into the Trump administration`s thinking on Afghanistan. Although in power since Jan 20, the administration is still developing a policy for the Pak-Afghan region and its senior of ficials usually avoid commenting on issues related to that area.

But a copy of the speech, released by the secretary`s office in Washington on Saturday, shows Mr Tillerson reiteratingWashington`s long-term commitment to Afghanistan.

`The ongoing commitment of Nato allies and partners to peace in Afghanistan, including to an eventual settlement between the Afghan government and the Taliban, protects this alliance`s interests, and, when successful, ensures that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for terrorists,` he said.

Secretary Tillerson said that the Trump administration wants to continue working with Nato allies to provide critical training and support to Afghan national forces in the fight against the militants.

`Nato`s work in Afghanistan remains critical. The United States is committed to the Resolute Support Mission and to our support for Afghan forces,` he said.

`Nato`s `Train, Advise, And Assist` mission is essendal to our shared goal ofensuring that Afghanistan develops the capability to contribute to regional stability and prevail over terrorist threats, including Al Qaeda and ISIS.

The Resolute Support Mission not only provides training and equipment to Afghan security forces but also enables US and Nato forces to participate in joint operations against the Taliban and other militants.

Secretary Tillerson`s remarks would also help redress speculadons in Washington that the Trump administration might end long-term military engagements as it considers them costly and counter-productive.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, President Trump often criticised previous administrations for leading America to wars that had drained the US Treasury andhadno apparentend.

This explains why Secretary Tillerson repeatedly told America`s Nato allies in Brussels that they `must increase defence spending to meet their commitments`.

Before him, US Vice President Mike Pence and Defence Secretary Jim Mattis had told the 28-nation alliance that they must spend at least two per cent of their gross domestic product on their military, a level only a handful meet.

Secretary Tillerson`s assurance of a long-term US commitment to Afghanistan comes at a time when insurgency in the war-ravaged country is on the rise, and the fight against the militants had reached a stalemate.

Afghan forces are planning a major operation this summer to break this stalemate and senior US generals are urging Washington to enhance its commitment to Afghanistan. At least two top US generals John Nicholson and Joseph Votel recently demanded thousands of additional troops and more financial support to break the stalemate.

Defence Secretary Mattis added a new angle to the issue when he told a news conference in London on Friday that Russia had once against emerged as a `strategic competitor` and had established links with the Taliban.

The two generals Nicholson and Votel also accused Russia of providing weapons to the Taliban.