WASHINGTON, Sept. 27, 2017 — Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at a news conference in the Afghan capital of Kabul today that the United States will stand by his country through thick and thin.
It was Mattis’ first visit to Kabul since President Donald J. Trump announced the new South Asian strategy Aug. 21.
The strategy calls for more U.S. advisors in Afghanistan, to be used in different ways and at different levels. It encompasses all aspects of American power, employing diplomacy, economic might, intelligence and military power to advance U.S. interests and ensure the safety of the American homeland and the nation’s allies and partners.
The strategy also addresses Pakistan providing safe havens for terrorist cells inside its borders, but the bottom line is that it commits the United States to Afghanistan – a country where Americans have fought and died since 2001, the secretary said.
Reaffirming NATO’s Commitment
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg joined Ghani and Mattis at the news conference, and he reaffirmed the alliance’s commitment to Afghanistan, saying NATO wants to ensure the country doesn’t become a safe haven for terrorists again.
“We will not abandon Afghanistan to a merciless enemy trying to kill its way to power,” Mattis said. The secretary praised the accomplishments of the Afghan security forces since they assumed responsibility for the nation two years ago. “With our new conditions-based South Asian strategy, we will be better postured to support you as you turn the tide against the terrorists,” he said.
Mattis said the strategy allows a more holistic approach to solve the region’s problems. The United States embracing this strategy “also makes it clear we are not quitting this fight,” he added.
“In short, uncertainty has been replaced by certainty,” Mattis said.
The secretary stressed that the strategy is conditions-based, not time-based, “because war is principally a matter of will, and we’ve made clear we have the will to stand together.”
Afghanistan’s security forces now have more than 300,000 trained members. NATO and partner forces will help to train the forces and provide them with capabilities they do not currently have, Mattis said.
“Through our partnership, we will suffocate any hope that al-Qaida or [the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria] or the Haqqani or Taliban have of winning by killing,” Mattis said. “I want to reinforce to the Taliban that the only path to peace and political legitimacy to them is through a negotiated settlement.”