National Security Adviser McMaster Visits Afghanistan Amid Questions Over Strategy

KABUL, Afghanistan — President Donald Trump's national security adviser met Afghan officials in Kabul on Sunday, amid questions over the new administration's plans for the military mission in Afghanistan after U.S. forces unleashed a huge bomb there on militants.

The visit by H.R. McMaster, the first high-level visit the the country by a Trump official, came just days after the U.S. military sparked controversy by dropping a GBU-43 MOAB (Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb), one of the largest conventional weapons ever used in combat, during an operation on Thursday against ISIS militants in eastern Afghanistan.

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While military officials said the strike was based solely on tactical needs, it led to speculation that Trump's defense advisers are planning to escalate the war against militants in Afghanistan.

McMaster met President Ashraf Ghani and other senior Afghan officials to discuss security, counterterrorism, reforms and development, according to a statement on the palace's Twitter account.

Ghani told McMaster that "terrorism is a serious issue for the security of the world and the region" and that if serious steps are not taken, it would affect "generations" of people, according to the statement.

In an interview on ABC's "This Week" aired Sunday, McMaster said that in the past the U.S. didn't have as reliable a partner in the Afghan government as the U.S. would have liked but with Ghani in power that has changed.

"Now we have a much more reliable Afghan partner and we have reduced considerably the degree and scope of our effort," he said.

Image: US President Donald Trump's national security adviser H.R McMaster visits Kabul
Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah meets with a U.S. National Security advisor of President Trump, H.R. McMaster in Kabul, Afghanistan, April 16, 2017. EPA via Afghan Chief Executive Office

"The stakes are high," said McMaster. "This is really the modern-day frontier between barbarism and civilization."

Nearly 9,000 U.S. troops are stationed in Afghanistan to train and advise Afghan forces, provide close air support to soldiers on the ground and form a separate counter-terrorism unit that targets Islamic State, al Qaeda and other militant networks.

The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan has said he needs "several thousand" more troops to help the Afghans take on a resurgent Taliban and battle other insurgents, but no official plan has been announced.