On Tuesday, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis made an unannounced visit to Kabul, Afghanistan, his presence there a secret due to security concerns. He was there to “take stock of the security situation — I want to talk to our Afghan partner leaders of the unity government, and I want to talk to our troops.” He also spoke with NATO coalition leadership and the U.S. Embassador to Afghanistan, John Bass. He would also speak to Afghan president Ashraf Ghani.

Mattis once again clarified what victory looks like in the current stage of the war, regardless of any previous definitions of the word in this context. He said that “[Victory in Afghanistan means] a country whose own people and their own security forces can handle law enforcement, any threats … with international support … all working to achieve a reconciliation — a political reconciliation, not a military victory — the victory will be a political reconciliation.” He went on to discuss offers made with the Taliban to achieve this reconciliation with the Afghan government. Only then will they be able to move forward in development, infrastructure and long lasting peace.

Check out Secretary of Defense’s statement on the matter here, prior to his entry into the country, as reported by the Associated Press:

Author’s insight:

The word “victory” has been used in many different ways since the beginning of the Global War on Terror. Some consider victory in a more traditional sense: occupying and controlling the land. Julius Caesar dominated, occupied and controlled Gallic lands during his reign, and many considered it a victory back then. However, despite his “victory,” he was constantly engaging in battles with various uprisings, some of which were so large that they threatened Rome itself. He won the war, but he continued to fight insurgencies.

Under that definition, the United States won the war in Afghanistan very quickly. Still, it has been engaged in battle with enemy forces in the area, many of which are based in neighboring Pakistan. If victory means that, for the most part, the fighting has ceased, then victory is not won.

Many people Americans recommend pulling out of Afghanistan entirely, and leaving them to their own devices. Many say we ought to take responsibility for the destruction we’ve caused after 16 years of war, when a simple and immediate withdrawal would undoubtedly only worsen the situation in Afghanistan. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis seems to have his sights set on a plan that may enable both of these to happen, but ultimately puts the fate of the Afghans in their own hands.

However, any plan like this requires the cooperation of Taliban leadership as well, and would likely be a decisive issue within their own ranks.


Featured image courtesy of the Associated Press.