Afghanistan was missing from the list of U.S. election campaign issues, but while condemning Tuesday’s deadly attack in Kabul, White House spokesperson Sean Spicer said National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has reaffirmed to his Afghan counterpart “our continued support for Afghanistan and for our strategic partnership.”
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis also called Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to “discuss the enduring U.S. Afghan strategic relationship.” The Pentagon readout said both leaders “look forward to engaging again in the near future.”
For Afghan Ambassador to the United States Hamdullah Mohib, these calls signal that the new U.S. administration values the Afghan partnership in the fight against terrorism.
“Our relationship with the new administration is off to a very strong start,” he said.
The Afghan envoy in Washington is confident the “Trump administration recognizes the enormous value of its partnership with Afghanistan and the critical importance of having a strong ally in the fight against terrorism and in our volatile region of the world.”
However, some critics of the Trump administration’s foreign policy do not see a “very strong” relationship.
“Trump does not believe in the mission, but will keep the troops there begrudgingly for a while to keep the government from collapsing,” said Barnett Rubin, author of several books on Afghanistan and head of the Center on International Cooperation at New York University.
“Trump policies in the U.S. and around the world will make the U.S. less and less welcome in Afghanistan,” Rubin told VOA.
The Afghan government sees Pakistan as a major player in restoring peace in Afghanistan, but according to Rubin, “Afghans who think he [Trump] will be tough on Pakistan to support the Afghan government are deceiving themselves.”
Sherjan Ahmadzai, the director of the Afghanistan Study Center at the University of Nebraska, said, “Afghanistan is the only country in the region that is friendly toward the United States and is willing to host U.S. forces.”
On why Afghanistan matters for the Trump administration, Ahmadzai added, “By having a military presence in Afghanistan, the U.S. can address any potential threat emanating from that region to which it cannot respond from offshore bases or ships in the Indian Ocean or in Turkey.”
While Afghans and analysts are waiting to see tangible U.S. policy actions in Afghanistan, the Afghan ambassador said, “My staff and I are always meeting with members of Congress and the administration to discuss matters involving Afghanistan.”