Top Afghan government officials late Monday praised U.S. President Donald J. Trump's speech outlining the future of American strategy in the South Asian nation, which includes open-ended troop commitments, a harder line against neighboring Pakistan and a more robust "strategic partnership" with India.
"I am grateful to President Trump and the American people for this affirmative support for our efforts to achieve self-reliance and for our joint struggle to rid the region from the threat of terrorism," Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said in a statement posted online. "The U.S.-Afghan partnership is stronger than ever in overcoming the threat of terrorism that threatens us all. The strength of our security forces should show the Taliban and others they cannot win a military victory. The objective of peace is paramount. Peace remains our priority."
From the Afghan Embassy in Washington, D.C., Ambassador to the U.S. Hamdullah Mohib, said, "We welcome this decision, which is the result of intense deliberations and takes into account both our countries' needs and considerations. This is the first time a focus has been put on what Afghanistan must have to succeed, and we are grateful for this outcome."
The speech is unlikely to get nearly as warm a reception in the halls of the Pakistani government, as Trump unleashed some of the harshest condemnation yet from an American president for Afghanistan's eastern neighbor.
"...Pakistan has also sheltered the same organizations that try every single day to kill our people. We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting," Trump said. "But that will have to change, and that will change immediately."
The strategic pivot to India is also likely to rankle nuclear-armed Pakistan. Pakistan's The Nation reported today Pakistani officials were still debating how to respond to Trump's comments. Later Tuesday, a spokesperson for Pakistan's Foreign Ministry tweeted about China's commitment to Pakistan in seeing a peaceful and stable Afghanistan -- potentially a subtle warning to the U.S. from Pakistan about where it could turn for support.
Back home, Trump's strategy was met with mixed reviews, beyond predictable criticism from top Democrats. It was praised by more moderate Republicans, like Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.), but was slammed by some of Trump's most ardent early supporters as a betrayal of Trump's "America First" credo. The shift was criticized in several articles on Breitbart, the rightwing news outlet formerly and now once again run by Steve Bannon after his ouster as White House chief strategist.
Trump acknowledged in his speech that his first instinct, which he vocalized for years, was to pull U.S. troops out of Afghanistan completely. "But," he said, "all my life I've heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office; in other words, when you're President of the United States. So I studied Afghanistan in great detail and from every conceivable angle..." before making a very different decision.
[This report was updated 3:47 p.m.]