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Trump to finalise his administration strategy for Afghanistan,Pakistan,India

18 July, 2017

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WASHINGTON: United States President Donald Trump is likely to meet his national security team this week to finalise his administration’s strategy for Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.

In an interview to The Hindu newspaper, US Charge d’Affaires to India MaryKay L. Carlson confirmed that the Trump administration intended to unveil the new strategy in the next few weeks.

Ms Carlson said the new South Asia policy would include the US position on Pakistan, India and Afghanistan.

“The Trump administration is looking at a South Asia strategy — not a US-Pak strategy, US-India strategy,” she said, adding that bilateral relations were an important part of the overall strategy. “We will definitely take a holistic view,” the diplomat said.

At a recent news briefing, US Secretary of Defence James Mattis also confirmed that the new strategy would have “a regional context”, including a Pakistan angle. He also said that since it was an inter-agency review, it was taking longer than usual to finalise the new policy.

The CNN was the first to report that President Trump was scheduled to meet his national security team this week to review the new Afghan policy.

US National Security Adviser Gen H.R. McMaster heads the policy-making team, which is working closely with both the defence and state departments.

President Trump has authorised Secretary Mattis to determine the size and nature of US military presence in Afghanistan.

While Mr Mattis told a news briefing on Friday that reports about the US sending 4,000 to 5,000 additional troops to Afghanistan could be right, some media outlets reported on Monday that Washington might change its plan. Instead of changing troops, it may give those already stationed there more powers to engage the militants.

Secretary Mattis also hinted at this possibility in his news briefing when he said that the new strategy might involve “changing somewhat what the troops on the ground are doing right now”.

The report that Washington may decide against sending additional troops to Afghanistan brings the focus back on a recent New York Times report that key Trump aides were exploring the possibility of replacing US soldiers in Afghanistan with private military contractors.

Some media reports claimed that one of the men behind this idea — Erik Prince, founder of the private security firm Blackwater — had discussed the proposal with Secretary Mattis.

In a separate report, the CNN pointed out that in his first six months, President Trump had ramped up military operations in trouble spots across the globe.

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