American Secretary of Defense James Mattis visited the headquarters of NATO’s Operation Resolute Support in the Afghan capital on Monday, and took the opportunity to reaffirm American support in the fight against terrorist organizations like ISIS and the Taliban who were responsible for an attack that claimed the lives of over a hundred Afghan soldiers during their evening prayer.

Mattis was accompanied by Army General John W. Nicholson, commander of the Resolute Support mission as well as all U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

“As if we needed a reminder of the type of enemy we’re up against, the killing of Afghan citizens and soldiers — protectors of the people — just as they were coming out of a mosque, a house of worship, it certainly characterizes this fight for exactly what it is,” Mattis said to the international group of soldiers.

“These people have no religious foundation. They are not devout anything, and it shows why we stand with the people of this country against such heinous acts perpetrated by this barbaric enemy and what they do.”

Mattis went on to discuss a meeting he had with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, whom Mattis thanked for his leadership during the ongoing battle against Muslim extremists in Afghanistan.

“We discussed his initiative to make the government … more responsive to all of the Afghan people, and we all recognize the challenges to this government of that effort presented by enemies of the Afghan people who refused to renounce violence,” Mattis said.

President Trump recently ordered a review of U.S. policy in Afghanistan, which Mattis is expected to brief him on in the near future.  Although Trump received a bump in approval ratings after American forces dropped the largest non-nuclear ordnance in the U.S. arsenal on a subterranean ISIS camp in Afghanistan weeks ago, last Friday’s bloody Taliban attack, the worst the Afghan army has seen since fighting began, has reignited criticisms from within the Afghan government.

“The biggest threat to the security and stability of this country is the Taliban insurgents, not Daesh forces,” said Mirwais Yasini, an influential Afghan member of parliament from Nangarhar province, using an Arabic term for Islamic State.

“You drop your biggest bomb on Daesh, but what about the Taliban who kill dozens of our people every day?”

“The Taliban are the single biggest challenge in the country, but unfortunately since the regime’s collapse, the United States and the Afghan government have not had a clear strategy to eliminate them or push them to negotiation,” said Mohammad Farhad Sediqi, a member of parliament from Kabul.

Mattis, apparently aware of the concerns levied by members of the Afghan government, spoke to this point, saying that his presence in Afghanistan was a part of an ongoing effort to assess and speak to the situation that General Nicholson himself claimed had reached a “stalemate” while testifying before Congress.

“This dictates an ongoing dialogue with Afghanistan’s leadership,” Mattis said, “and that’s why I came here: to get with President Ghani and his ministers and hear directly and at length from … General Nicholson to provide my best assessment and advice as we go forward.”  The Defense Secretary then clarified that his assessment and advice would not only be going to the president, but also to the “NATO secretary general and all the troop-contributing nations with which the United States coordinates and collaborates.”


Image courtesy of the Department of Defense