JUDY WOODRUFF: U.S. military and diplomatic leaders are moving ahead on the Afghanistan strategy that President Trump laid out in a speech to the nation last night. His remarks brought reaction today from the region, and the world.
Nick Schifrin begins our coverage.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Today, in the birthplace of the Taliban, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani praised President Trump’s decision to deploy more U.S. troops without an end date.
ASHRAF GHANI, President, Afghanistan (through interpreter): From now on, there will not be any timetable or conditions. America will stand with the Afghan nation until the end.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Afghan chief executive Abdullah Abdullah, who came to prominence fighting the Taliban, said the new strategy should serve as a warning.
ABDULLAH ABDULLAH, Chief Executive, Afghanistan: The message is very clear, that if there are groups that they think that they can win militarily, they should give up their thinking.
NICK SCHIFRIN: But Afghan officials say that statement also applies to U.S. The U.S. has been targeting the Taliban for 16 years, and the 4,000 or so troops that will newly deploy is a fraction of the 100,000 troops who didn’t break the Taliban’s back during the war’s peak.
So, U.S. officials say most of the new U.S. troops won’t be firing their own weapons, but teaching Afghans how to fire theirs. That’s a mission that NATO trainers have been doing since the war began, like these near the border of Iran earlier this year. The Afghans attach GoPros to their guns as they train raiding a target. The American trainers will embed in lower level Afghan units, trying to instill confidence in a force responsible for the vast majority of the fighting.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The stronger the Afghan security forces become, the less we will have to do. Afghans will secure and build their own nation and define their own future.
NICK SCHIFRIN: President Trump’s speech last night largely echoed the military establishment’s thinking, and he tried to increase the pressure on Afghanistan’s neighbor, Pakistan. U.S. officials have long accused Pakistan of allowing some of Afghanistan’s fiercest militants to go back and forth across the porous 2,600-mile border freely, an accusation Secretary of State Rex Tillerson repeated this afternoon.
REX TILLERSON, U.S. Secretary of State: We have witnessed terrorist organizations being given safe haven inside of Pakistan, to plan and carry out attacks against U.S. servicemen, U.S. officials, disrupting peace efforts inside of Afghanistan. Pakistan must adopt a different approach. We are going to be conditioning our support for Pakistan and our relationship with them on them delivering results in this area.
NICK SCHIFRIN: Pressure on Pakistan isn’t new, but the administration’s language is stronger than its predecessors. Pakistan didn’t respond publicly today, but China came to its defense, a sign of China’s desire to increase its regional diplomacy and protect major investments in Pakistan, like this Arabian seaport.
HUA CHUNYING, Spokesperson, Chinese Foreign Ministry (through interpreter): Pakistan is on the front line in the struggle against terrorism, has actively made efforts and great sacrifices to combat terrorism for years.
NICK SCHIFRIN: President Trump’s strategy hinges on a regional approach. But many of the diplomats who would execute that strategy are not in place, including ambassadors in Kabul and New Delhi. And critics of the president’s speech described it as a rehashing of already failed strategies. From the right, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul said: The mission in Afghanistan has lost its purpose, and I think it is a terrible idea to send any more troops into that war.
And from the left, Maryland Senator Ben Cardin on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
SEN. BEN CARDIN, D-Md.: We know that a military surge — we’ve tried two under the Obama administration. That did not work.
NICK SCHIFRIN: The political center praised the president:
REP. PAUL RYAN, R-Wis., Speaker of the House: I’m pleased with the decision. I’m actually pleased with the way he went about making this decision.
NICK SCHIFRIN: It was a decision Mr. Trump said will produce immediate results. But it’s been 16 years, and right now, commanders admit they consider Afghanistan a stalemate.
For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Nick Schifrin.