The Latest: Afghan government applauds Trump speech

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WASHINGTON (AP) - (08/21/17) - The Latest on President Donald Trump and U.S. policy in Afghanistan (all times EDT):

11:15 p.m.

Afghanistan's government is applauding President Donald Trump's speech for focusing on needs and conditions instead of timelines.

Afghan Ambassador to the U.S. Hamdullah Mohib calls it a "10 out of 10." He tells The Associated Press by telephone from Kabul that Afghans heard "exactly what we needed to."

Mohib says critiques of the speech for failing to disclose troop numbers are misguided. He says the focus on numbers detracts from the "real focus" on conditions and support needed for Afghanistan to succeed and achieve peace.

The ambassador is also praising Trump for "breaking the silence" about Pakistan's sheltering of what he calls terrorists. Trump emphasized the need for Pakistan to stop harboring the Taliban.

Mohib says Afghanistan has made progress and is committed to pursuing reforms to show it merits continuing help from the U.S.

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11:05 p.m.

The top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee is criticizing President Donald Trump's speech on Afghanistan as too vague.

Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island says Trump's Afghanistan plan is late in coming and "short on the details our troops and the American people deserve."

Reed says Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told lawmakers two months ago that there was no strategy for Afghanistan. He says Trump's repeated delays and mixed messages about the U.S. commitment to Afghanistan have harmed U.S. credibility with the country's leaders and members of the American-led coalition.

Reed says Trump needs to use U.S. diplomacy more than he has so far. But he says Trump's State Department is understaffed and is facing steep budget cuts as part of plan to boost U.S. military spending.

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11 p.m.

Breitbart News is calling President Donald Trump's speech on Afghanistan a reversal, writing that the president is defending his "flip-flop."

The conservative news site refers to the conflict as an "unlimited war."

Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon resumed his role of executive chairman of the website on Friday after departing the White House.

Breitbart refers to Trump's plan for Afghanistan as "tweaks around the edges of the current strategy instead of a different approach." The website says the speech was a "disappointment" to those who had called for an end to foreign intervention and nation-building.

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10:55 p.m.

The top U.S. general in Afghanistan says President Donald Trump's "new approach" to Afghanistan will deny the Taliban a military victory.

Gen. John Nicholson is calling on the Taliban to "renounce violence and reconcile." He says Trump's new policy promises the Afghan government that the U.S. commitment is "strong and enduring."

Nicholson came under criticism during the White House review of its Afghan policy, with some calls for Nicholson's firing.

Nicholson has requested additional troops, but Trump did not address that issue. Still, Nicholson is praising Trump's new condition-based approach, rather than previous practices that set timelines for progress.

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10:50 p.m.

President Donald Trump is leaving decisions about the number of new U.S. troops in Afghanistan to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

Trump refused during his prime-time speech on Afghanistan to discuss the size of the American force that his new strategy requires.

White House talking points sent to congressional Republicans after Trump's speech say, "Troops levels are a determination for the Secretary of Defense to make, based on his judgment, and the advice of the field commanders, on the needs of the mission."

The Pentagon has recommended sending nearly 4,000 new troops, supplementing the total of 8,400 in Afghanistan now.

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10:30 p.m.

A Taliban spokesman is dismissing President Donald Trump's remarks on Afghanistan as "old" and "unclear."

Spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid tells The Associated Press, "The whole speech was old." He says the Taliban will come out with a more detailed response, but he is initially calling Trump's policy outline "unclear."

Last week the Taliban issued a 1,600-word open letter to Trump warning against a troop surge, saying it would prolong what is already the United States' longest war. Trump steered clear of discussing troop numbers, but said U.S. forces are in Afghanistan to win.

The Taliban have also said they aren't ready for any peace talks, at least not until the U.S. and NATO give a time frame for withdrawal - something Trump says isn't going to happen.

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10:20 p.m.

The parents of a Utah National Guard member killed in action last week in Afghanistan say their son would support President Donald Trump's apparent plan to increase American troop numbers.

Randy and Laura Butler say their 27-year-old son - Staff Sgt. Aaron Butler - "believed that if military leaders thought changes in our strategy would increase the efficiency of U.S. operations in Afghanistan, he would be all for it, even if it required additional sacrifice."

Aaron Butler was a member of the Green Beret Special Forces.

In a statement Monday night, the Butlers say their son was passionate about his patriotism, was willing to defend the U.S. against terrorism and died doing what he truly believed in.

His funeral is scheduled for Saturday in Monticello, Utah.

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10 p.m.

Sen. John McCain is commending President Donald Trump's strategy for Afghanistan and says the president needs to start conducting himself as a "wartime commander in chief."

The Arizona Republican says in a statement that while the plan is long overdue, it moves the United States well past the Obama administration's "failed strategy of merely postponing defeat" in Afghanistan.

McCain, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, is urging Trump to speak regularly "to the American people, and to those waging this war on their behalf, about why we are fighting, why the additional sacrifices are worth it, and how we will succeed. "

McCain says his committee will hold a hearing on Trump's Afghanistan strategy in September.

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9:38 p.m.

President Donald Trump says the U.S. "can no longer be silent" about terrorist safe havens in Pakistan.

He says Pakistan often gives sanctuary to "agents of chaos, violence and terror," and says the Taliban and other groups there pose a threat to the region and beyond.

Trump is outlining his administration's strategy to the war in neighboring Afghanistan. He says a pillar of that strategy is a change in the U.S. approach to Pakistan.

He adds that Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with the U.S. and much to lose from harboring terrorists.

For years, Washington has criticized Pakistan's tolerance of Taliban militants who launch attacks in Afghanistan. During the Obama administration, restrictions were imposed on military aid to Islamabad because of those concerns.

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9:33 p.m.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is signaling the U.S. will increase troop numbers in Afghanistan as part of the president's new war strategy.

Mattis says he has directed the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to prepare to carry out President Donald Trump's plans.

He doesn't speak about the size of a U.S. troop increase.

But he says he'll consult with NATO and U.S. allies, "several of which have also committed to increasing their troop numbers."

Mattis says, "Together, we will assist the Afghan Security forces to destroy the terrorist hub."

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9:25 p.m.

President Donald Trump says U.S. troops "will fight to win" in Afghanistan. And he's using his prime-time address to the nation to offer a "clear definition" of victory.

Trump says victory in Afghanistan will mean "attacking our enemies" and "obliterating" the Islamic State group. He's also vowing to crush al-Qaeda, prevent the Taliban from taking over the country, and stopping terror attacks against Americans.

Trump is discussing his strategy in Afghanistan, and noting the frustration that many Americans have about the 16-year war.

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9:18 p.m.

President Donald Trump says his new strategy on Afghanistan will be based on conditions on the ground, not timing.

The president says in an address to the nation that he will not "talk about numbers of troops or our plans for further military activities."

Trump is outlining the pillars of his strategy to address Afghanistan and the South Asia region. He says the U.S. is not about nation building, but rather, "we are killing terrorists."

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9:15 p.m.

President Donald Trump says the U.S. needs a plan for "and honorable and enduring outcome" in Afghanistan.

He says a rapid exit would have unacceptable consequences.

Trump says, "a hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum" that the Islamic State group and al-Qaida would fill.

The president was making a rare, nationally televised address late Monday on his strategy for what is America's longest war.

Trump says his original instinct was to pull out of Afghanistan, but he shifted his view after studying the issue "from every conceivable angle."

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9:10 p.m.

President Donald Trump says he shares the frustration of Americans with the nation's long war in Afghanistan.

Trump says in an address to the nation that his "original instinct was to pull out," but he reached a different conclusion after studying the issue once he was in the Oval Office.

Trump says the United States must seek "an honorable and enduring outcome" worthy of the sacrifices in the region.

He says a hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum that terrorists would instantly fill.

Trump spoke during a prime-time address on his plan for handling the 16-year conflict in Afghanistan.

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6:35 p.m.

A leader of the GOP's non-interventionist wing says it's a "terrible idea" to send any more American troops to Afghanistan.

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky issued a statement ahead of a prime-time address by President Donald Trump to unveil his updated Afghanistan policy. It is expected to include a few thousand more U.S. forces.

Paul says the mission in Afghanistan "has lost its purpose."

He also wants Congress to more aggressively assert its war-making powers. Paul is planning to propose an amendment next month to the annual defense policy bill that would repeal the war authorizations that Congress granted after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Paul says if the White House and Congress "want to continue the war in Afghanistan, then at the very least Congress should vote on it."

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2:50 p.m.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has spoken with key officials from Afghanistan, Pakistan and India as President Donald Trump prepares to unveil his new strategy for the Afghan war.

Tillerson spoke to the Pakistani prime minister and the Indian and Afghan foreign ministers on Monday. The State Department says they discussed how the U.S. can work with the countries on a new regional strategy to stabilize South Asia.

Trump is scheduled to deliver a prime-time address at 9 p.m. EDT on his plan for handling the 16-year conflict.

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7:30 a.m.

Sen. Tim Kaine says the United States needs to "make sure that Afghanistan is not a breeding ground for things that can come back and hurt us."

Appearing on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" Monday in advance of President Donald Trump's primetime speech on Afghanistan, Kaine was asked what is at stake in the war-torn nation, where the United States is in its 16th year of involvement.

"I think the answer is we want to be invested, to put it bluntly," said Kaine, a Democrat who is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He said U.S. officials should make certain that "what happens in Afghanistan stays in Afghanistan."

Kaine says the country needs a discussion of "the continuing rationale" for being in Afghanistan.

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3:19 a.m.

President Donald Trump will use a nationally televised address to outline for a war-weary nation the strategy he believes will best position the U.S. to eventually declare victory in Afghanistan after 16 years of combat and lives lost.

The speech Monday night will also give Trump a chance for a reset after one of the most difficult weeks of his short presidency.

Trump tweeted Saturday that he had reached a decision on the way forward in Afghanistan, a day after he reviewed war options with his national security team at a meeting at Camp David, Maryland. The president offered no clues about whether he would send thousands more U.S. troops into Afghanistan or exercise his authority as commander in chief to order that they be withdrawn from America's longest war.

But signs pointed in the direction of Trump continuing the U.S. commitment there.

(Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)



 
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