By: The Kabul Times
Addressing a press conference here in Kabul together with Afghan ministers of interior and national defense and the Resolute Support Mission Commander, the US Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper said he had the opportunity to meet with the Resolute Support troops and leaders, as well as the Afghan partners here in Kabul, and to get an update on the situation on the ground.
“From what I’ve heard and seen, we are making progress towards our common goal. That is, to ensure that we are our allies never again face terrorist attacks from Afghanistan,” he told the journalists, adding the United States and Afghanistan have a strong security partnership, built over many years of cooperation and shared sacrifice. “That bond was forged in battle, and it grows even stronger as our work continues today.”
According to Secretary Esper, counterterrorism operations have remained critical to US efforts to achieving peace and ensuring terrorist organizations cannot find safe haven in Afghanistan, adding regardless of the outcome of the election, US security partnership with Afghanistan will remain strong. “Our mission in Afghanistan has not changed. We continue to conduct counterterrorism operations while supporting the development of the ANDSF.”
He went on saying that the United States remains fully committed to helping Afghans create a peaceful, stable and prosperous Afghanistan, and to supporting the Afghans’ efforts, led by the government, towards peace. A negotiated political settlement among Afghans is the best path to achieving this outcome, he added.
“Until that [peace] is accomplished, we will continue to pursue an aggressive military campaign against the Taliban and terrorist groups that continue to conduct violence against the people of Afghanistan,” he added.
Meanwhile defense minister Asadullah Khalid said Afghan people will never forget US help and support in this war against terrorism. “This will be the right time to thank my brother in arms, General Miller, and his team for supporting us in this fight against terrorism,” he added.
Minister Khalid went on saying that Afghan people were sacrificing lives every day, and they were in the front line of this fighting against global terrorism. “And we are doing this fight to secure Afghanistan and all the world from terrorism.”
Interior Minister Massoud Andarabi said they have discussed with US officials on how the ANDSF has cooperated and collaborated in planning for the election, and how successful was the conduct of the election, from a security point of views.
“And how the Afghan Security Forces leadership that are emerging in the security sector has maintained high level of professionalism and apolitical in this process, which helps give the hope for the future for the Afghan people — that the Afghan Security Forces are the custodians of our democracy and will pave the way for the future elections as they have set the example in the current election,” he told reporters.
According to Minister Andarabi, they have also talked with Secretary Esper about the continuous need for reform within the security sector. “And continuous to — continue building capacity across the level and positioning the security sector and the police to utilize the training, support and equipment that are being provided for the past years, which will continue.”
Answering a question, the US Defense Secretary said the situations in Syria and Afghanistan were very, very different. “The reason for our withdrawal from northeast Syria was because of the imminent invasion planned by the Turks, a longstanding NATO ally. And my concern and the chairman and the joint chiefs’ concern that our forces would be in harm’s way. And we did not want to put our forces in that situation.”
“Now, contrast that with the situation in Afghanistan. We’ve been here since 2001, since the heinous attacks against America as part of 9/11. And we have now a longstanding commitment to our Afghan partners. We’ve invested billions upon billions of dollars. Both the Afghan people and the American people have sacrificed treasure and the lives of their soldiers to defend this — you know, this — the Afghan government, the people, and really stand up for democracy and liberty in this country, in this land,” he added.
General Scott Miller, NATO-led Resolute Support Mission and US Forces-Afghanistan commander, said that “unbeknownst to the public as part of our optimization, over the last year… we have reduced our authorized strength by 2,000 here.”