KABUL (SW): US Secretary of Defense James Mattis said Tuesday he believes victory in Afghanistan is still possible; not necessarily on the battlefield, but in facilitating a Taliban reconciliation with the Afghan government.
After arriving in Kabul, Mattis spoke very briefly to reporters, however, the reporters who accompanied him to Afghanistan were not allowed to publish the news until he reached the US-led military coalition headquarter from Kabul’s airport.
Defense Secretary Mattis meet with President Ashraf Ghani and senior US commanders. He said, “we do look forward to a victory in Afghanistan; however this victory is not through war, but a political reconciliation with the Taliban”. The Taliban have reached a deadlock in recent years and are therefore interested in compromising with the Afghan government, he added.
James Mattis, a retired Marine General who commanded the US troops in southern Afghanistan during the first years of the US-led war in 2001, said getting the Taliban to reconcile as a whole group may be “a bridge too far”, however, the emphasis will be to reconcile them gradually.
According to Defense Secretary Mattis, those Taliban who have been tired of this 16-year-old war must be isolated from the Taliban group and reconciled.
Defense Secretary Mattis defined victory in Afghanistan as a political settlement between the Taliban and the government of Afghanistan, and strengthening of an Afghan military that is able to secure the country largely on its own. He added that Afghanistan will not be the international sanctuary once again as it was used by al-Qaeda to plan the September 11 attack.
AP reported that the US intelligence officials have predicted that the war will continue, as traditionally the war intensifies in the spring season.
This is the US Defense Secretary’s second visit to Afghanistan since President Donald Trump announced last August that despite his desire to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan, his administration will pursue a more aggressive approach in this 17-year war.
Recently, the United States has sent a regiment of approximately 800 US forces to reinforce US troops in Afghanistan to provide support and advisory role to the Afghan military forces adding 3500 more US troops in Afghanistan. In addition, the United States has transferred several I-10 airplanes and several other aircrafts from Syria and Iraq to Afghanistan.
US Defense Secretary has said that the US aims to empower the Afghan forces in order to weaken the Taliban so that the Afghan army can secure the country on their own. In other words, the goal is to make the insurgents convinced that they cannot win the war and this will bring them to peace with the Afghan government, he added.
However, the US intelligence agencies do not have a positive view of the war in 2018. In late February, the Pentagon’s Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction “SIGAR” reported that the in 2015, the Afghan government had controlled the smallest part of its territory while the vast majority of the country was under the control of the Taliban and other armed groups.