US President Trump heads to Camp David for Afghanistan talks

Heading to Camp David for major meeting on National Security, tweets President Donald Trump

Afp August 18, 2017

WASHINGTON DC: US President Donald Trump is assembling his national security team at the Camp David presidential retreat on Friday to forge a way ahead in Afghanistan, almost 16 years after the war began.

Trump must decide if he wants to continue on the current course, which relies on a relatively small US-led Nato force to help Afghan partners push back the Taliban, or if he wants to try a new tack such as adding more forces - or even withdrawing altogether.

"Heading to Camp David for major meeting on National Security, the Border and the Military [which we are rapidly building to strongest ever]," Trump said on Twitter ahead of the talks.

Defence Secretary Jim Mattis had initially promised to provide a new plan for Afghanistan by mid-July.

But Trump appears dissatisfied by initial proposals to add a few thousand more troops, and the strategy has been expanded to include the broader South Asia region, notably Pakistan.

Pakistan warns Trump’s generals: ‘Sort out Afghanistan mess or Russia will intervene’

We are "coming very close to a decision, and I anticipate it in the very near future," Mattis told reporters on Thursday.

Trump's generals have called the Afghan conflict a "stalemate", and even after years of intensive help from Nato, Afghanistan's security forces still are struggling to hold back an emboldened Taliban.

In an early move to address the situation, Trump gave Mattis broad powers to set troop numbers in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
But several months later, the level remains stuck at about 8,400 US and about 5,000 Nato troops.

Meanwhile the situation is as deadly as ever, with more than 2,500 Afghan police and troops killed between January 1 and May 8, continuing a deadly trend from previous years.

Afghan war: Pentagon chief readies Afghanistan proposals for Trump

Frustrated by the fragile security situation in a war that has cost more than $1 trillion in fighting and reconstruction, and more than 2,400 US combat deaths, Trump is considering a range of approaches.

One of these is a plan provided by Erik Prince, who founded the private security company Blackwater, that would replace most US forces with a private army of around 5,500 contractors who would train Afghan soldiers and join them in the fight against the Taliban.
They would be backed by a 90-aircraft private air force.


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