Sunday, August 06, 2017

With U.S. general under fire, Afghans fear being abandoned by Trump - washingtonpost

 Afghans are alarmed by widespread reports that President Trump has threatened to fire Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr., the highly regarded U.S. military commander in this war-torn country, and that Trump has also delayed choosing a new military and political strategy Afghans have awaited anxiously for the past six months. 

Nicholson, 61, the top U.S. military official in Afghanistan for the past 16 months, has become the best-known face of Washington here, working closely with Afghan military and civilian officials, and vocally advocating expanded U.S. military engagement, while the Taliban and other insurgents continue aggressive attacks across the country.

Now, with two U.S. service members killed in the past week, Trump’s attack on Nicholson for failing to “win” the 16-year war has stunned Afghan officials and political leaders. They said a clear signal of continued support from Washington is urgently needed to keep the fragile Kabul government on its feet amid an explosion of public unrest and organized opposition from a variety of groups.

Over the past several days, Afghan officials and others here praised Nicholson, saying he inherited a protracted and worsening conflict but has worked closely with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on developing a detailed four-year plan to support Afghan security forces so they can defend the country alone. With no permanent U.S. ambassador here since December, the four-star general’s role has also taken on added diplomatic importance.

 Observers in Kabul said Nicholson, now on his fourth military tour in the country, has earned wide respect for his hard work and outreach to Afghans of all stripes. Last year, Nicholson told a congressional committee that since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, “the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan has largely defined my service.” 

A U.S. military official here, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Nicholson “is not one to twist in the wind. He is focusing on the mission he was asked to carry out: a strategy to help the Afghans stand on their own feet. This is an Afghan conflict, and everyone knows there is no quick and easy solution. The main thing President Ghani has asked us for is time.”

But a variety of Afghans said the new controversy over Nicholson, and further postponement of an announced U.S. policy after months of drift, have aroused concern that Washington may abandon its longtime role as a supporter of Afghan democracy, and possibly even the war effort, at a time of growing domestic unrest and interference by foreign regional powers. -  ReadMore

With U.S. general under fire, Afghans fear being abandoned by Trump


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