A Political settlement in Afghanistan is only possible with the Taliban abandoning terrorism, the US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told lawmakers on Tuesday asserting that Islamabad needs to hear and embrace demands of NATO countries. “A political settlement in Afghanistan is only possible if the Taliban reject support or conduct of terrorism,” Mattis said in his testimony before the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee on South Asia. Mattis just returned from a visit to India and Afghanistan. Based on intelligence community analysis and his own evaluation, Mattis said he is convinced the “we would absent ourselves from this region to our ultimate peril”. The new, conditions-based approach has set the stage for regional and afghan national change.
“Our new strategy, vigorously reviewed and approved by president trump, is “r4+s”, which stands for regionalize, realign, reinforce, reconcile, and sustain,” Mattis said.
Referring to 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Violence and progress in Afghanistan continue to co-exist, but the uncertainty in the region and the NATO campaign has been replaced by certainty due to the implementation of President Trump’s new South Asia strategy, he said.
This strategy has been welcomed almost uniformly by leaders in the South Asia region as well as the 39 countries contributing troops to the NATO-led campaign, he said.
“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.
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, although regrettably, Taliban high-profile attacks on civilians continue to murder to innocent, he said.
“While the Taliban still attempts to seize district or provincial centers before the end of this fighting season, they have generally been forced into decentralized 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 said.