By DoD News
By Terri Moon Cronk
US Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani reaffirmed their strong strategic partnership and common vision for a secure and prosperous Afghanistan during a meeting in the country’s capital of Kabul.
In a joint press conference, the two leaders discussed their meeting — one of the secretary’s many stops on his around-the-world trip to visit and thank U.S. troops during the holiday season.
Ghani has been a valued U.S. partner, Carter said, telling the Afghanistan president, “I want to thank you again for your continued leadership, your resolve, for your friendship … throughout your time as president.”
Ghana made a deep impression on the Pentagon when he visited to honor U.S. service members’ sacrifices in Afghanistan, Carter said, adding, “We won’t … we can’t forget that.”
The U.S. and its coalition partners continue to support Afghan forces, Carter said. He noted that the U.S.-Afghan strategic partnership demonstrates to the world that America is, and will remain, committed to a sovereign and secure Afghanistan.
Year of Successes
In the past year, the secretary said, Afghan security forces have assumed the lead for securing their country, and were put to the test. And despite great sacrifices, they passed the test, he said.
“They demonstrated their growing capabilities and resilience, and they denied the Taliban its own stated goal of seizing a major population center. That reflects the progress Afghan forces have made with the help of the United States and our NATO partners,” Carter noted.
Reflecting upon America’s 15 years in the country after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Carter highlighted three important decisions the United States has made this year that will “continue to define the U.S. commitment in Afghanistan.”
— President Barack Obama gave expanded authorities to U.S. forces to proactively assist and enable its Afghan partners in operations that have strategic effects;
— The plan was modified to retain some 8,400 U.S. troops during 2017 in Afghanistan, compared to the original 5,500; and
— The United States will continue to maintain its financial commitment to the Afghan National Defense and the country’s security forces through 2020.
Commitments to Afghanistan
NATO has committed to continuing the Resolute Support mission, the secretary said, adding that combined international community pledges to maintain Afghan security forces, including from the U.S., total about $5 billion per year thru 2020.
“These robust American commitments … in forces and finances will ensure that not only can we continue supporting our Afghan partner, but [we can] also continue our counterterrorism mission well into the future to ensure no terrorist group can seek safe havens such that it can threaten the stability of Afghanistan, of the U.S. homeland or the coalition,” Carter said.
Alongside its Afghan partners, the United States recently conducted two large-scale operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the secretary said, killing its top leader in the country, and significantly degrading its capabilities in Afghanistan. The United States also struck remnants of al-Qaida in Afghanistan, killing its top plotter, he added
U.S. Troops’ Sacrifices
“Many of the men and women of the Defense Department have given their all, and so many years of their lives, here in Afghanistan,” the secretary said. “Many have given life itself, including three service members and two contractors in last month’s suicide attack at Bagram. Today and every day, I join President Ghani in remembering those we’ve lost in the last decade and a half in the United States and Afghanistan.”
As we remember the fallen, we’ll honor their memory by ensuring the U.S.-Afghan strategic partnership is strong and enduring, Carter said, “and by remaining firm in our resolve to secure a brighter future for all Afghans and a better world for all our children.”