WASHINGTON -- Hamdullah Mohib, the Afghan ambassador to Washington, hailed U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent policy statement on the war in his country, saying it was “better than what we were expecting.”
“We welcomed President Trump’s announcement,” Mohib said on August 31. “It was something we have been working on with the U.S. administration since President Trump took office.”
“There were intense deliberations on what needs to be done,” said Mohib, who was speaking on U.S. cable TV’s C-SPAN network and took phone questions from viewers.
“It couldn’t have been any better than what we were expecting,” said Mohib of Trump’s policy announcement.
On August 21, Trump set out what he called his administration’s new, more aggressive “path forward” for Afghanistan, where U.S.-led forces have been fighting a 16-year war against Taliban, Al-Qaeda, and other extremist groups attempting to overthrow the government in Kabul.
Trump vowed "to win" the war and said his strategy will not be based on "arbitrary timelines" but on conditions on the ground.
Following Trump's address, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis suggested the United States and other countries would send more troops to Afghanistan.
In the C-SPAN broadcast, Mohib praised “the American soldiers who made sacrifices, the veterans, the 1 million Americans who served in Afghanistan.”
He also cited the toll on Afghan citizens, saying that over the past two years, “we've had 75,000 casualties…Many of them were civilian casualties targeted by terrorist groups.”
Mohib insisted that the conflict in his country was “not an Afghan war” but a battle "we are all fighting" against terrorism.
“The Afghan people are on the front line of defending against these terrorists. You have seen what they do. They turn anything into a weapon. In Europe, they turn cars and trucks into weapons," he said.
"In Afghanistan, they’re using large bombs to indiscriminately target people at banks, at hospitals, at places of worship. They have no religion and the only objective they have is to terrorize the world.”
Mohib did not comment directly on recent incidents of civilian deaths mistakenly caused by Afghan and allied forces -- including reports of 11 civilians allegedly killed on August 29 in Logar Province by a NATO helicopter raid on a house that militants had seized.
But, he said, “We lose people on a daily basis to this conflict. We want nothing more than to end it.”
He added that to bring the 16-year conflict to a “successful conclusion…requires the kind of commitment that both the Afghan people and the Afghan government, and the United States and our allies have made…to end this tyranny on our people and the world.”
Mohib said he was not concerned by the U.S. military’s announcement on August 30 that it had sharply raised its estimate of the number of U.S. troops currently in Afghanistan, to about 11,000 from the previously listed 8,400.
The U.S. military, as part of Trump’s new strategy for Afghanistan, is considering adding about 4,000 troops to its effort in the country, according to multiple press reports.
“We have always wanted to move away from talking about troop numbers. That is a detail that must be decided by those who are fighting the war on the ground,” he said.
He said the numbers will fluctuate. “There are months…when we need a lot more support, then months when there are quiet periods,” he said.
Questions from viewers centered on the levels of illegal opium production, corruption within the government and the security forces, and relations with neighboring Pakistan.
Mohib said that “each day, we make progress against terrorists; each day we make progress against corruption, against narco traders; and each day we are building institutions to make Afghanistan safe for Afghans and everyone else.”
Trump, in his policy speech, also criticized Pakistan for providing “safe harbors” to Taliban and other terrorists operating in Afghanistan.
Mohib said he was pleased by the U.S. administration’s focus on the problem of the “sanctuaries” across its border, saying, “We have been complaining about it, and I am really glad there is serious attention paid to this in Washington.”