National security adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster talked up the US relationship with the current government of Afghanistan Sunday at a time when the US is considering increasing its military commitment there.
McMaster was speaking from Afghanistan, where he is visiting as the US mulls a full "strategy review" of Afghanistan plans and policy moving forward in consultation with Gen. John Nicholson, the commander of US Force Afghanistan, according to a senior administration official. McMaster is the highest-level member of the Trump administration to visit the country.
US troops have been fighting there for nearly 16 years, and last week, the US military dropped one of its largest non-nuclear bombs on an ISIS target in the country. Asked on ABC's "This Week" about the continued US military involvement there, McMaster praised the government under Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
"In recent years, at a period of our maximum effort, we didn't have as reliable a partner in the Afghan government as we would've liked," McMaster said. "Now we have a much more reliable Afghan partner and we have reduced considerably the degree and scope of our effort."
McMaster described the US and Afghanistan fight against the Taliban and ISIS as one "between barbarism and civilization," casting it as a "threat to all civilized peoples." He said members of the administration from all over would present Trump with a "range of options" per his request.
"We'll be prepared to execute whatever decision he makes," McMaster said.
Ghani met with McMaster at the presidential palace in Kabul, according to a statement from the Afghan president. The statement said Ghani told McMaster he appreciated US assistance and sacrifice there and underscored the threat of terrorism.
"If we do not fight for the repulse of that on time, it will have negative impact on next five generations," Ghani said.
Ghani's predecessor, former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, has struck a much different tone with regard to continued US military involvement in the country.
On Saturday, he took to Twitter to say the recent US bombing was using a weapon of mass destruction and that he viewed the US presence in Afghanistan as against the interests of the people.
In testimony before Congress in February, Nicholson said the US was at a "stalemate" in Afghanistan and requested thousands of more troops.
The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan reported civilian deaths and injuries in the country had ticked up in 2016 to their highest point since at least 2009. The report attributed 61% of civilian casualties to "anti-government elements," mainly the Taliban.