Top U.S. general in Afghanistan vows to annihilate Islamic State

Jane Onyanga-Omara
U.S. Army General John Nicholson, Commander of Resolute Support forces and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, speaks about the U.S. new strategy for Afghanistan during a news conference in Kabul, Afghanistan August 24, 2017.
Omar Sobhani | Reuters

The top U.S. general in Afghanistan on Thursday vowed to annihilate the Islamic State and crush what remains of al-Qaeda after President Trump announced a renewed effort in the war that has dragged on for nearly 16 years.

Gen. John Nicholson said the new strategy is a sign of a long-term commitment.

He told reporters in the country's capital, Kabul, that additional troops will further train Afghan forces and promised more air support. Nicholson also urged the Taliban to pursue diplomacy and said that Afghan commandos and special forces were strong.

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President Trump said Monday that he was lifting restrictions on commanders in the field imposed by the Obama administration and increasing pressure on Afghanistan's neighbor Pakistan to stop providing a safe haven to militant groups along its border.

The U.S. will send up to 3,900 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan as part of the strategy, according to media reports.

"The Taliban cannot win on the battlefield; it's time for them to join the peace process," Nicholson said, according to Reuters.

"We will not fail in Afghanistan, our national security depends on that as well."

Russia on Thursday warned that military force will not resolve the conflict.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the U.S. strategy "puts emphasis on force" and that "we believe that this path offers no prospects."

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that Moscow is ready to cooperate with the U.S. and others to help end the war.

Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have vowed to step up pressure on Pakistan to work harder with its neighbor to end the conflict.

Aizaz Chaudhry, Pakistan's ambassador to the United States, pledged Wednesday that his country's government is willing to work closely with the Trump administration to find a political solution to end the war.

Chaudhry told USA TODAY that the government will help promote peace talks between the U.S.-backed Afghan government and the Taliban "in whatever manner it can."

He said Pakistan would use its considerable influence over the Taliban to prod the insurgent group to the negotiation table.

Pakistan has its own struggle against the Taliban, but some agencies, such as the Intelligence services, have been accused by the U.S. and other governments of supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid dismissed Trump's strategy earlier this week.

"If America doesn't withdraw its troops from Afghanistan, soon Afghanistan will become another graveyard for this superpower in the 21st century," he said, according to Al Jazeera.

Contributing: Waseem Abbasi, Associated Press