During his recent visit to Afghanistan, U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis made clear that as difficult as conditions are in the country, as Afghan security forces, along with their NATO allies, continue the fight against brutal enemies of the Afghan people, the United States stands with Afghanistan.
Secretary Mattis’ visit took place just days after a deadly attack by the Taliban on an Afghan army base and mosque outside the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif. More than 100 troops were killed as prayers at the mosque were concluding.
At a press briefing, General Mattis said that barbaric attack against the protectors of the Afghan people as they were coming out of a house of worship “characterizes this fight for exactly what it is.”
“These people have no religious foundation,” he declared. “They are not devout anything.”
Secretary Mattis noted that he had met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah earlier to discuss ways the United States and Afghanistan can align their efforts in the fight against Afghanistan’s enemies, which include not only the Taliban, but ISIS and al Qaeda.
He also spoke at length with U.S. General John Nicholson, commander of NATO’s Resolute Support mission and of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, who was at the press briefing, as well.
President Donald Trump has directed a review of U.S. policy in Afghanistan, and Secretary Mattis said the review dictates an on-going dialogue with Afghanistan’s leadership and with General Nicholson, so that the Defense Secretary can provide the President, NATO’s secretary general and all the troop-contributing nations with whom the United States collaborates his best assessment and advice on the way forward. “There’s no one nation that’s going to carry all this, so there’s a lot of collaboration,” he said.
Secretary Mattis praised the inclusive approach of Afghanistan’s government of national unity and President Ghani’s personal leadership “in the midst of very, very difficult times” created by “enemies of the Afghan people who refuse to renounce violence.”
“2017 is going to another tough year for the valiant Afghan forces,” he warned, “and the international troops who have stood and will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with Afghanistan against terrorism and against those who seek to undermine the legitimate United Nations-recognized government of this nation.”