Kabul: US Vice President Mike Pence told US troops in Afghanistan Thursday they have put the Taliban on the run, as he became the most senior Trump administration official to visit the men and women fighting America’s longest-ever war.
Speaking to US troops, the vice president also aimed a jab at neighboring Pakistan — reiterating word for word Trump’s warning that it must stop offering cross-border safe havens to Taliban factions and armed jihadist groups fighting US troops and their Afghan allies.
“President Trump has put Pakistan on notice,” Pence said.
“Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with the United States, and Pakistan has much to lose by continuing to harbor criminals and terrorists.”
Pence’s visit comes four months after Trump unveiled a new strategy for Afghanistan, which he told the troops was “already bearing fruit”.
With typical certitude, the 45th commander-in-chief promised a nation “weary of war without victory” a more ruthless campaign, and one without Obama-era exit deadlines or niceties.
“We are not nation-building again. We are killing terrorists,” Trump said in unveiling the strategy at Fort Myer, Virginia in August. “In the end, we will win.”
But the unannounced visit comes as Afghan security forces struggle to beat back the Taliban which has been on the offensive since the withdrawal of US-led NATO combat troops at the end of 2014 and maintain control over large swathes of the country.
And the fact that Pence’s visit took place in secrecy and under cover of winter darkness is a stark reminder of the difficult security situation even around Kabul and even after a war effort worth more than half a trillion dollars.
His visit from Bagram to central Kabul was in doubt until the last moment, when a White House official said he countermanded a decision that the weather was not clear enough to travel.
Even then, Pence’s helicopter flight took place in near total darkness, moving low and fast and with a heavy phalanx of secret service and special forces.
The White House official said the decision was made “out of respect. To meet with Ghani and Abdullah”.