Trump speaks with Afghan counterpart amid calls for more troops

Washington, (IINA) - US President Donald Trump and his Afghan counterpart Ashraf Ghani discussed security during a phone call on Thursday, officials said, hours after the top US commander in Afghanistan said thousands more troops were needed to break a stalemate with the Taliban, Reuters reported.

Trump and Ghani also spoke about opportunities to strengthen ties, counterterrorism cooperation, and economic development, the White House said in a statement.

It said Trump also emphasized the continuing importance of the US-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership and his support for Ghani's government, which is faced with an emboldened Taliban-led insurgency that is still gaining ground after more than 15 years of war.

The Afghan Embassy in Washington said Trump and Ghani had spoken on December 3, but Thursday's call was their first since Trump's inauguration on January 20. Hours before the call, General John Nicholson, the commander of US and international troops in Afghanistan, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in Washington he did not have enough troops to adequately advise Afghan forces on the ground.

Nicholson said he had enough US troops to carry out counterterrorism operations against the Taliban, al Qaeda, and other insurgents but also acknowledged gains made by the Taliban over the past year.

"We have a shortfall of a few thousand," Nicholson said. Trump has so far offered little clarity about whether he might approve more forces for Afghanistan.

About 8,400 US troops remain in Afghanistan, well down from their peak of about 100,000 in 2011.

Source: International Islamic News Agency