Secretary of Defense James Mattis has asked the international community to help end the war in Afghanistan. He said that regional leaders need assistance in their efforts to “bridge longstanding disagreements,” and also pointed out that conflicts in Afghanistan have now gone on for “40 years.”
Mattis spoke to the news media before a meeting with Indian Defense Secretary Nirmala Sitharaman, saying:
“In Afghanistan, it’s gone on now it’s approaching 40 years; 40 years is enough and it’s time for everyone to get on board, support the United Nations, support Prime Minister Modi, support President Ghani and all those who are trying to maintain peace and make for a better world here. So, we are on that track,”
The United States has had a military presence in Afghanistan for 17 years, since the terrorist attack on New York’s World Trade Center in 2001. Although the U.S. forces did succeed in removing the Taliban government from power, Afghanistan’s conflict has not ended. The Taliban has waged a guerilla type war against the ruling government, and the fear is that if U.S. and international forces leave the country the terrorist group will take over again.
Afghanistan has been suffering a state of war since the late 1970s when the Soviet Union invaded the country. After that, U.S.-backed Afghan guerillas were able to push out the Soviet Union, but it took a nine-year battle to do so.
An unwinnable guerilla war is the norm for this mountainous Asian country. Ever since the U.S. military first had a presence there troops have been bogged down in fighting against an insurgency.
Secretary Mattis commented that the U.S. is now concerned about the influence of Pakistan-based armed groups militia that have been fighting with U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
“The presence of U.S. troops in Afghanistan has also heightened U.S. sensitivity to the rivalry between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan. Washington and New Delhi share concerns over Pakistan-based anti-Western and anti-Indian Islamist militant groups,” Mattis said, according to the Afghan media outlet Tolo News.
But Mattis said there would be no hasty withdrawal of American troops. He told the Reagan National Defense Forum:
“We are going to stand with the 41 nations, largest wartime coalition in history, who are still committed to this effort. The Taliban have made clear the lives of the Afghan people are of no value to them. They can’t win at the ballot box, so they are trying to terrorize instead.”
About 16,000 US troops are currently deployed in Afghanistan in various roles such as training and counterterrorism activities.
Four US service members have been killed in the country in the last week and 13 since the start of the year. More than 2,400 US military personnel have died since the initial invasion of American forces in 2001.
Despite this, Mattis said he believes it is very important to keep troops in the region.
“If we leave, with 20-odd of the most dangerous terrorist groups in the world centered in that region, we know what will happen,” he said. “Our intelligence is very specific. We will be under attack.”
Once again, it seems that U.S. officials are saying they want to leave Afghanistan, but are not backing up their words with actions. There are 16,000 American troops there, and it does not appear that any of them will be leaving soon. An American presence — and American deaths — in Afghanistan will probably continue for a long time to come.