Trump Afghanistan Strategy Means 'Graveyard for the American Empire,' Taliban Says

Donald Trump
President Donald Trump delivers remarks on America’s military involvement in Afghanistan at the Fort Myer Army Base, in Arlington, Virginia, on August 21. Mark Wilson/Getty

The Taliban warned the U.S. that they would make Afghanistan a "graveyard for the American empire" after President Donald Trump's announcement that he would commit more troops to the country.

The radical Islamist group, who are waging a bloody insurgency against the Afghan government and its security forces, said they would continue "jihad" until all U.S. troops were removed from Afghan soil.

"If the U.S. does not pull all its forces out of Afghanistan, we will make this country the 21st-century graveyard for the American empire," the Taliban's spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said in a statement.

The Taliban have battled American forces who entered the country in 2001 and have in several incidents breached the Afghan forces working alongside their U.S. counterparts, carrying out insider attacks.

Trump did not provide specific details of his troop expansion in Afghanistan in remarks delivered on Monday, but he said his administration will ramp up the military effort against the Taliban and the Islamic State militant group. ISIS has gained in influence in the past year, particularly in the eastern province of Nangarhar. It has also carried out several mass-casualty attacks in the Afghan capital, Kabul. U.S. officials indicated that the new strategy would involve around 4,000 more American troops, taking the total U.S. presence in Afghanistan to more than 12,000.

Trump said more troops were required to close spaces that allow extremist groups to thrive. "The consequences of a rapid exit are both predictable and unacceptable," he said. "A hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum that terrorists, including ISIS and Al-Qaeda, would instantly fill."

The announcement, which went against his previous position of withdrawal from Afghanistan, was welcomed in Kabul, which has been struggling to contain radical Islamist cells. NATO, the military alliance that Trump has pledged to support with the caveat that its members contribute more resources, also said it was "fully committed" to the new strategy.

"I am grateful to President Trump and the American people for this affirmation of support...for our joint struggle to rid the region from the threat of terrorism," Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said in a statement.

Trump said that the military would not engage in "nation-building," but that its support for the Afghan government would focus more on building up the capabilities of the Afghan armed forces. "The stronger the Afghan security forces become, the less we will have to do," he said. "Afghans will secure and build their own nation and define their own future. We want them to succeed."

Following the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in September 2001, former President George W. Bush authorized the campaign in Afghanistan to remove the Taliban from power, and U.S.-backed Afghan forces overthrew the Taliban government in late 2001.

The ensuing military campaign to beat back the group's insurgency led to the death of some 2,400 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.