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Mike Pence says victory in Afghanistan is 'closer than ever before'

18 Apr 2018 The Independent

Vice President Mike Pence has claimed that victory in Afghanistan is “closer than ever before” in a surprise trip to the war-torn country. Mr Pence met with Afghan leaders and addressed US troops in a brief visit intended to promote President Donald Trump’s four-month-old military strategy for the country. “The road before you is promising, but it’s perilous. And this commander-in-chief is clear-eyed about the threats you face and the challenges that lie ahead,” Mr Pence told troops at the US’s Bagram military base. “But today, let me assure you: President Trump has your back.” Read more Mike Pence lands in Afghanistan on surprise trip Mr Pence also met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah in Kabul, assuring them that the US was “here to see this through”. The Vice President is the highest-ranking member of the Trump administration to visit Afghanistan to date. He planned the trip in secret and flew in on an unmarked C-17 transport plane to minimise security risks. Afghanistan: Between Hope and Fear 16 show all Afghanistan: Between Hope and Fear 1/16 2001 Afghans at the Killi Faizo refugee camp desperately reach for bags of rice being handed out to the thousands who escaped the bombardment in southern Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. (Chaman, Pakistan, December 4, 2001) Paula Bronstein 2/16 2002 Mahbooba stands against a bullet-ridden wall, waiting to be seen at a medical clinic. The seven-year-old girl suffers from leishmaniasis, a parasitical infection. (Kabul, March 1, 2002) All photos Paula Bronstein 3/16 2003 A mother and her two children look out from their cave dwelling. Many families who, fleeing the Taliban, took refuge inside caves adjacent to Bamiyan’s destroyed ancient Buddha statues now have nowhere else to live. (Bamiyan, November 19, 2003) Paula Bronstein 4/16 2007 Students recite prayers in a makeshift outdoor classroom in the Wakhan Corridor, a mountainous region in northeastern Afghanistan that extends to China and separates Tajikistan from India and Pakistan. (Northeastern Afghanistan, September 2, 2007) Paula Bronstein 5/16 2007 Bodybuilders in the 55-60 kg category square off during a regional bodybuilding competition. Many Afghan men, like others around the world, feel that a macho image of physical strength is important. (Kabul, August 6, 2007) Paula Bronstein 6/16 2008 A woman in a white burqa enjoys an afternoon with her family feeding the white pigeons at the Blue Mosque. (Mazar-e-Sharif, March 8, 2008) Paula Bronstein 7/16 2009 Addicts inject heroin while trying to keep warm inside the abandoned Russian Cultural Center, which the capital city’s addicts use as a common gathering point. Heroin is readily available, costing about one dollar a hit. (Kabul, February 9, 2009) Paula Bronstein 8/16 2009 An elderly man holds his granddaughter in their tent at a refugee camp after they were forced to flee their village, which US and NATO forces had bombed because, they claimed, it was a Taliban hideout. (Surobi, Nangarhar Province, February 7, 2009) Paula Bronstein 9/16 2009 Seven-year-old Attiullah, a patient at Mirwais Hospital, stands alongside an X ray showing the bullet that entered his back, nearly killing him. Attiullah was shot by US forces when he was caught in a crossfire as he was herding sheep. (Kandahar, October 13, 2009). Paula Bronstein 10/16 2010 US Army Sargeant Jay Kenney (right), with Task Force Destiny, helps wounded Afghan National Army soldiers exit a Blackhawk helicopter after they have been rescued in an air mission. (Kandahar, December 12, 2010) Paula Bronstein 11/16 2010 An Afghan National Army battalion marches back to barracks at the Kabul Military Training Center. (Kabul, October 4, 2010) Paula Bronstein 12/16 2014 Eid Muhammad, seventy, lives in a house with a view overlooking the hills of Kabul. He and millions of other Afghans occupy land and housing without possessing formal deeds to them. (Kabul, November 21, 2014) Paula Bronstein 13/16 2014 Razima holds her two-year-old son, Malik, while waiting for medical attention at the Boost Hospital emergency room. (Lashkar Gah, Helmand Province, June 23, 2014) Paula Bronstein 14/16 2014 Young women cheer as they attend a rally for the Afghan presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani. (Kabul, April 1, 2014) Paula Bronstein 15/16 2014 Burqa-clad women wait to vote after a polling station runs out of ballots. (Kabul, April 5, 2014) Paula Bronstein 16/16 2015 Relatives, friends, and women’s rights activists grieve at the home of Farkhunda Malikzada, who was killed by a mob in the center of Kabul. Farkhunda was violently beaten and set on fire after a local cleric accused her of burning a Qur’an. (Kabul, March 22, 2015) Paula Bronstein When Defence Secretary James Mattis visited the country in September, the Taliban fired rockets at the airport where his plane was parked. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited in October, but remained in the military base and had Afghan leaders flown in from Kabul to meet him. Still, Mr Pence assured the troops that Mr Trump’s strategy to stabilise the region was working. “We’ve dramatically increased American airstrikes,” the Vice President said. “And together with our Afghan partners, we’ve put the Taliban on the defensive. We’ve prevented them from launching a major campaign against a provincial capital for the first time in three years.” President Trump Delivers Remarks Regarding Afghanistan Mr Trump, who regularly criticised America’s involvement in Afghanistan on the campaign trail, sent nearly 4,000 more troops to the country this autumn. He also plans to send hundreds more US Army trainers to the region next year, as part of what he calls a “fight to win” strategy. US officials estimate the number of troops in the country could reach nearly 16,000 by early next year – almost double the number stationed there when former President Barack Obama left office. Read more Mother of men killed by SAS in Afghanistan paid £3,364 Isis 'beheads 15 of its fighters' after internal Afghanistan dispute Army dog that protected British troops from Taliban wins bravery medal Mr Trump outlined his strategy for ending the 16-year-old war in a policy address this August, saying he would focus on attacking US enemies, “obliterating” Isis and al-Qaeda, preventing Taliban advances, and stopping terrorist attacks against Americans. He also emphasised the importance of regional cooperation with nations like Pakistan and India. Mr Pence singled out Pakistan in his address to troops on Thursday, accusing the country of providing a safe haven to Taliban insurgents. “President Trump has put Pakistan on notice,” Mr Pence said, from a stage decorated with a Christmas tree and an inflatable Santa Claus. “As the President said, so I say now: Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with the United States, and Pakistan has much to lose by continuing to harbour criminals and terrorists.” Pakistan’s Foreign Office said on Friday that Mr Pence’s comments were at odds with their previous conversations with the Trump administration. “Allies do not put each other on notice,” the Foreign Office added in a statement. More about: Afghanistan Mike Pence Reuse content

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