A political settlement in Afghanistan is possible with the Taliban if they abandon terrorism, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told lawmakers on Tuesday.
“A political settlement in Afghanistan is only possible if the Taliban reject support or conduct of terrorism,” Mattis said in his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on South Asia.
Mattis, who just returned from a visit to India and Afghanistan, said based on intelligence analysis and his own evaluation, he was convinced of the need for a US presence in the region.
“We would absent ourselves from this region to our ultimate peril,” the secretary remarked, saying the new conditions-based approach had set the stage for regional and Afghan national change.
“Our new strategy, vigorously reviewed and approved by President Trump, is R4+s – regionalise, realign, reinforce, reconcile and sustain,” Mattis said.
About his visit to Afghanistan, the Defense Secretary said he can report that General Nicholson and the NATO team are holding the line in the country. “Forecasts of a significant Taliban offensive remain unfulfilled,” he said.
Violence and progress in Afghanistan continue to co-exist, but uncertainty in the region and the NATO campaign has been replaced by certainty due to implementation of Trump’s new South Asia strategy, according to Mattis.
This strategy had been welcomed almost uniformly by leaders in the South Asia region as well as the 39 countries contributing troops to the NATO-led campaign, the official claimed.
“As we have shifted to a conditions-based strategy, not time-based or troop number-focused, ambiguity has been removed. the elements of this strategy are a tangible demonstration of our resolve,” Mattis said.
Beginning last month, and for the first time in this long fight, all six Afghan military corps are engaged in offensive operations. During these recent months, there have been fewer civilian casualties as a result of coalition operations.
“While the Taliban still attempt to seize district or provincial centers before the end of this fighting season, they have generally been forced into decentralised small-scale ambushes and the use of improvised explosive devices.
“Importantly, the rate of Afghan national security force casualties has reduced from last year,” Mattis concluded.
This piece appeared on www.pajhwok.com on October 04, 2017. Original link.