By Lisa Ferdinando
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said he will soon have an assessment to give President Donald J. Trump about the way ahead in Afghanistan.
Mattis spoke to reporters in Abu Dhabi yesterday, as part of his first Middle Eastern tour as secretary of defense.
He said he talked at length with both Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and U.S. Army Gen. John Nicholson, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan and NATO’s Resolute Support mission, to “gain their political and military appreciation to the situation.”
Mattis said his plans to travel to Afghanistan during the current overseas trip were scrapped due to weather, but he was able to speak with Ghani while the two were in Munich last week for the Munich Security Conference.
“I had a very in-depth discussion about the way ahead in Afghanistan,” he said.
In addition, he said he talked via video conference for several hours with Nicholson.
“This is all part of my getting my feet on the deck in terms of getting current on the situations that the coalition faces in Afghanistan, both political and strategically, and identifying the way ahead,” he said.
Trump is waiting for the assessment from the Pentagon and from the intelligence community on Afghanistan, Mattis said.
Integrating Several Issues
The talks are part of the process in gathering information to formulate the assessment and find out what the other countries in the region are doing in Afghanistan “to help or hinder us in our efforts there,” Mattis said.
“Shortly I’ll have my thoughts collected,” he said. “It shouldn’t take too long, but I’ve got to integrate a fair number of issues in order to give a good recommendation for the way ahead.”
He pointed out that last year was “pretty disastrous” for the Taliban, saying they lost their leader, took no provincial capitals and were unsuccessful in gaining their tactical objectives.
“The Afghan Security Forces paid a very heavy price to keep the Taliban on their back foot, but they paid it, they’ve held, and the Taliban is in a worse position today, even though I do not equate that to success on our side,” he said.