Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Trump: We Must Step Up War with Taliban to Fight Terror in West; UK Welcomes President's Pledge to 'Stay the Course'

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Trump: We Must Step Up War with Taliban to Fight Terror in West; UK Welcomes President's Pledge to 'Stay the Course'

Article excerpt

Byline: Nicholas Cecil Deputy Political Editor

DONALD TRUMP today put America on a new war footing in Afghanistan by ditching previous calls for the withdrawal of US forces.

Thousands more American soldiers are now expected to be sent to the wartorn country to strengthen the battle against the Taliban, Islamic Statelinked groups and al Qaeda.

The president's U-turn was backed by the British Government, which stressed the need to "stay the course" in Afghanistan to fight terrorists plotting murderous attacks on the West. Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon hailed as "very welcome" Mr Trump's decision, which came despite previous demands for US soldiers to be brought home immediately.

Sir Michael spoke to US defence secretary James Mattis ahead of Mr Trump's announcement.

"We agreed that despite the challenges, we have to stay the course in Afghanistan to help build up its fragile democracy and reduce the terrorist threat to the West," said Sir Michael. "It's in all our interests that Afghanistan becomes more prosperous and safer."

The UK has 500 military personnel in Afghanistan on Nato's Resolute Support training, advising and assisting mission. A further 85 are being deployed later this year.

Defence sources played down the prospect of even more British soldiers going to Afghanistan, though the UK could offer more support in terms of aircraft or logistical capabilities.

During the election campaign, Mr Trump softened his stance on Afghanistan, and accepted in some speeches that US troops should stay. But he said yesterday he was going against his own instincts in approving the new campaign plan sought by military advisers.

In a televised address from the Fort Myer military base outside Washington, he gave few details about America's plans but promised a stepped-up military campaign against Taliban insurgents who have gained ground in recent months against US-backed Afghan government forces. …

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