‘Trump closely monitoring progress of South Asia strategy’

Washington: US President Donald Trump is closely monitoring the progress in his new South Asia Strategy, which gives a major role to India, and is very much engaged in its implementation, a senior administration official has said.

Trump had sought a major role for India in bringing peace in Afghanistan and ruled out a hasty withdrawal of troops from the war-torn nation while announcing his new Afghanistan and South Asia policy in August.

“The president has been very closely monitoring the progress of the South Asia strategy. He’s very interested in any progress that has been made,” a senior administration official told PTI.

Trump had a meeting with his Defense Secretary Jim Mattis before he left on his visit to Pakistan. The defense Secretary is again likely to brief the president on his return.

On the sidelines of the UN General Assembly Session in New York in September, Trump met the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

“That was a good opportunity to hear from President Ghani on how the strategy was being received in Afghanistan,” the official said.

Observing that Trump has been getting updates from his national security team on what’s happening in Afghanistan, the official said the president is very much engaged and interested in how this strategy is progressing.

Asserting that the things are signs of encouragement in the implementation of the South Asia strategy, the official said it is moving in the right direction.

“We need to give more time for the strategy to take root,” the official said.

“It’s a multifaceted strategy. We’re using all the tools that the US has its disposal military, economic, diplomatic. All these parts of the strategy are important. They all need to work in tandem together. The president is very interested in keeping track of how the strategy is going. And he is receiving regular updates,” the senior administration official said.

In his August 21 speech, Trump had said that terrorists who slaughter innocent people will find no glory in this life or the next.

“They are nothing but thugs, and criminals, and predators, and — that’s right — losers. Working alongside our allies, we will break their will, dry up their recruitment, keep them from crossing our borders, and yes, we will defeat them, and we will defeat them handily,” he had said.

“In Afghanistan and Pakistan, America’s interests are clear: We must stop the resurgence of safe havens that enable terrorists to threaten America, and we must prevent nuclear weapons and materials from coming into the hands of terrorists and being used against us, or anywhere in the world for that matter,” Trump said.

Announcing his strategy, Trump said a core pillar of his new strategy is a shift from a time-based approach to one based on conditions.

“Another fundamental pillar of our new strategy is the integration of all instruments of American power — diplomatic, economic, and military — toward a successful outcome,” he said.

Describing Pakistan as an important part of his strategy, Trump had said the US can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organisations, the Taliban, and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond.

Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan. It has much to lose by continuing to harbor criminals and terrorists, he had said.