Trump rules out Afghan exit as he warns terrorists "no place is beyond the reach of American arms"

 
Catherine Neilan
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Donald Trump will not withdraw US troops from Afghanistan, saying a hasty exit would allow terrorism to grow.

During last night's address to the nation, at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, a US military base adjacent to Arlington National Cemetery, the 45th US President said he had decided to stay and "fight to win", hoping to avoid the chaos caused during previous incursions.

"The consequences of a rapid exit are both predictable and unacceptable," Trump said. "We cannot repeat in Afghanistan the mistake we made Iraq."

He offered no timeline for an ultimate withdrawal, and refused to be drawn on any additional number of troops, but said the country's continued presence was not a "blank cheque" for Afghanistan.

"America will work with the Afghan government, so long as we see commitment and progress," he said.

Trump had been expected to commit to deploy a further 4,000 troops, as requested by top military commander general John Nicholson. Criticising previous administrations, he said: "We will not talk about numbers of troops or our plans."

Despite this, he promised an escalation in the fight against groups like al-Qaeda and Islamic State.

"They are nothing but thugs and criminals and predators and, that's right, losers," Trump said. "We will defeat them and defeat them handily."

"[They] need to know they have nowhere to hide - that no place is beyond the reach of American arms," he said.

The Taliban responded by saying that Afghanistan would become "another graveyard" for the US if it did not withdraw its troops.

Trump also warned Pakistan that the US would no longer tolerate the country offering "safe havens" to terrorists.

"We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars - at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting," he said.

This claim was dismissed by Pakistani army spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor, who told reporters "there are no terrorist hideouts in Pakistan".