General John Allen Applauds President Trump’s Strategy on Afghanistan

Posted August 24th, 2017 at 7:53 pm (UTC+0)
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Retired General John Allen, who commanded US and coalition forces in Afghanistan from 2011 until 2013, and Michael O’Hanlon, director of research and foreign policy program at Brookings Institution applauded President Trump’s new strategy on Afghanistan in their recent Op-Ed for USA Today, “Donald Trump Makes Right Moves In Afghanistan”. Brookings Institute recently held a seminar discussing President Trump’s policy in which General Allen answered VOA Deewa’s questions regarding Pakistan’s part within this new policy on helping fight the war on terrorism in the region.

VOA Deewa’s Iftikhar Hussain asked General John Allen a two prong question in which the general responded:

Iftikhar Hussain: “General John Allen, thank you very much for your perspective, my first question is, will President Trump’s policy that he announced last night, will change Pakistan behavior, I mean is it the right time because Pakistan has now moved itself to the China camp, and sort of things that were discussed, and there might be a temporary change, so the whole question comes down to one point, will it change the Pakistan behavior?”

“In addition, my second question is, again from John Allen, will it shift the momentum against the Taliban? You know the conditions on the ground, you being on the ground, what makes you believe that it will shift the momentum against the Taliban?”

General John Allen: “Well the comment that Pakistan has shifted to the China camp, that’s not a new revelation. The Chinese and the Pakistanis have been a very close partnership for a very long time, and I don’t know that it’ll change Pakistan’s behavior, but the President sought to make a case that he’s willing to work with Pakistan to see if we can find a new way forward, given the long term American commitment, ultimately, to Afghanistan’s future. To see if there is a possibility that way we can find a way forward with the Pakistanis. Either to deal with the issue of the safe-havens, I’m a bit skeptical about that, even under the conditions where a had nearly a hundred and fifty thousand troops in Afghanistan, and worked closely with the Pakistanis for cross-border operations, they were usually lukewarm at best in their efforts to do that.

That being a reality then, the conditions in Afghanistan have to go forward, recognizing that Pakistan may not change, but the President is right to try to seek a change in Pakistan’s behavior, to see if they can be both helpful on that issue of the safe-haven, but also be helpful in the process of the peace process.

Nothing happens fast in Afghanistan. Nothing is going to happen fast in this process as it goes forward, but I have been an adviser in a number of places. I know what advisors do for organizations and units, and the intent, of course, is to provide a broader contact with the Afghan national security forces, both in terms of our capacity to train them, and also our capacity ultimately to advise them as they move forward.

I don’t want to get into the political issues associated with Iraq, but when the time came ultimately for us to reinsert our forces into Iraq, and when we began to support the Iraqis in their offensive operations, it wasn’t until we made the decision to move advisers well forward, and the offensive operations, that we began to see real momentum occur. So that’s going to be the case here, I think, with roughly thirty-nine hundred troops, which is what we think that this number will be, many of them advisers, some of them advising down as low potentially as the battalion level, combat level, with American firepower in support, I think we can see some changes here. But once again we shouldn’t, we’ve got to all be realistic here, and I think for those of you that have been covering Afghanistan for some period of time, this is not going to change at a short order.

But it can begin the process of A, giving the national security forces confidence and begin, in those areas where the Afghans can make progress, to recover lost ground to recover control of population areas and key pieces of terrain in Afghanistan, we have the possibility here of beginning to do that.

And Roger, I get the point that this is the least-bad option of all the options, but the option of pulling out was certainly the worst of all the options, and when we were considering the departure from Afghanistan when I was a commander, my recommendation was thirteen thousand, six hundred troops plus another six thousand non-US NATO and partner forces, about twenty thousand. This helps, this gets our number back towards where we might have had the right number of US troops. I don’t suppose necessarily that we’re attempting to mimic that plan, but the President was also clear in going back to the Europeans and to NATO to get more forces as well.

So the idea, I think, for him as he expressed, and the one point about his speech is that it was long on aspiration but not long on detail, but I do know that there is some sufficient detail behind this plan. The intent would be to expand our capacity to touch the Afghan forces as much as we can, as broadly as we can, and as deep in their formation as we can. In those key areas where we need to recover ground and where we need to make progress.

So this isn’t a perfect solution and if we were looking for a perfect solution then we were going to be disappointed, but the President, and this is the key point I think, is that the President considered his way through this process and has made a decision. We’ve got good commanders on the ground, we’ve got a great commander in Afghanistan. These were numbers roughly that he asked for, we have a Secretary of Defense who’s prepared to go back to the President if necessary, and I think the strategy is going to be helpful.

To the issue of other aspects of the strategy. While the President today was talking about the military strategy, there are still significant consideration with respect to the military strategy providing the basis for stability within which the US and other partners can work with the Afghan government to improve its governance capacity, to include the issue of corruption but also, at the same time, provide the basis with stable governance to try to improve the economic conditions in Afghanistan as well. Those three issues, stability, governance, and economic progress, those are all inextricably linked, and we can’t have a conversation about the military dimension of what’s happening in Afghanistan without considering those other two legs of that triangle.

If you envisage that the security platform is the bottom of the triangle and the upper two legs are governance and economics, prospects of economic progress, all of those things are related and we have to think in those terms. The President’s speech today was much more about how we’re going to stabilize the security situation in order to create progress in those other two areas.”



**Contributing Editor-Niala Mohammad

**Transcript of verbatim question and response were provided by The Brookings Institute.

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