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U.S. Defense Secretary: For First Time, Afghan Military Fully Involved in Conflict

2017-10-06

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[00:00.00]
  • United States Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has announced that, for the first time, the Afghanistan military is fully involved in the war with Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
  • [00:15.37]
  • Mattis spoke with members of the U.S. Senate this week about the Trump administration’s Southeast Asia strategy.
  • [00:24.77]
  • He said, “For the first time in 16 years, we have all six Afghan army corps on the offensive at the same time.”
  • [00:35.42]
  • Mattis admitted that the Afghan forces have taken heavy losses in the fighting.
  • [00:42.58]
  • But he said they are suffering fewer losses than they did last year.
  • [00:48.89]
  • The decrease in losses could be a sign suggesting that the forces are improving their combat abilities, he said.
  • [00:58.71]
  • Mattis also noted that under President Trump, international forces have launched more airstrikes against enemy forces than in any other year since 2012.
  • [01:13.08]
  • One reason is because restrictions preventing strikes on insurgents beyond a certain distance from American or Afghan forces have been lifted.
  • [01:25.28]
  • The Trump administration announced its new Afghanistan strategy in August.
  • [01:32.83]
  • The plan added about 3,000 American troops and additional NATO coalition partners to the Afghan fight.
  • [01:42.32]
  • Most of those troops will advise and assist Afghan forces.
  • [01:48.00]
  • “Afghan special forces that have our trainers, they have won every time they fought the enemy,” said Mattis. “Those without have not won.”
  • [02:01.39]
  • He added that American and NATO airstrikes will let Afghan forces be “bolder” in combat.
  • [02:10.70]
  • “When they go into the fight, no longer will they worry about the high ground,” Mattis stated.
  • [02:17.88]
  • “Having fought in mountainous country, it’s unpleasant to have the enemy above you … NATO airstrikes overhead denies the enemy ever having the high ground."
  • [02:30.52]
  • But the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joseph Dunford, told lawmakers at the hearing that the progress that has been made is still not enough.
  • [02:42.94]
  • He said military pressure from Afghanistan and its international partners is not close to bringing a “successful political solution.”
  • [02:53.82]
  • Dunford argued that the international effort must be “long-term,” taking at least six or seven years.
  • [03:03.93]
  • That is the time required to fully train the Afghan air force to fight the enemy forces in the country.
  • [03:12.37]
  • Republican Senator and Vietnam prisoner of war John McCain has also criticized the lack of progress in Afghanistan.
  • [03:23.48]
  • He said, “After 16 years, should the taxpayers of America be satisfied that we are still in a stalemate? I don’t think so.”
  • [03:34.57]
  • McCain was talking about a comment the top commander on the ground made earlier this year.
  • [03:42.65]
  • U.S. Army General John Nicholson asked for more troops to help break what he called the “stalemate” in America’s longest war.
  • [03:53.53]
  • Mattis said that political reconciliation with the Taliban is still the goal.
  • [04:00.35]
  • As long as the Taliban stops killing people, lives by the Afghan constitution and breaks with international terrorists there will be no more conflict, he added.​
  • [04:13.39]
  • The United States’ new Afghan strategy aims to focus on the major powers in the area, including India, China, Russia, Iran and Pakistan.
  • [04:26.96]
  • For example, U.S. leaders want Pakistan to prevent terrorists from using their territory to escape pressure in Afghanistan.
  • [04:38.88]
  • Mattis said this week that places where terrorists feel safe must be removed.
  • [04:45.83]
  • Otherwise keeping the area in good condition will be "highly difficult."
  • [04:51.92]
  • Members of Congress also asked Chairman Dunford about the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence Agency, or ISI.
  • [05:03.24]
  • Dunford told the Senate committee that it was "clear" that the ISI has connections with terrorist groups.
  • [05:11.27]
  • So far, the U.S. has been working alone to push Pakistan toward removing its areas that are safe for terrorists.
  • [05:21.12]
  • But Dunford suggested that America should use the nearly 40 nations of the coalition in Afghanistan to do so.
  • [05:30.51]
  • Also it should ask other powers in the area, such as China and India, to better urge Pakistan to do more to fight terrorism, he said.
  • [05:43.04]
  • Mattis expressed concern that Russia is also acting in ways that work against the coalition's fight to defeat the Afghan Taliban and al-Qaida.
  • [05:56.22]
  • “If there's an opportunity to, you know, poke us in the eye, they'll do it,” Mattis said.
  • [06:04.27]
  • “Even if it's against their own interest.”
  • [06:08.09]
  • I’m Alice Bryant. And I’m Pete Musto.
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