By DoD News
By Jim Garamone
The security situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating, Pentagon officials said, and U.S. officials are monitoring the situation in the country.
News reports indicate more provincial capitals in the country have fallen to the Taliban, and Mazar-i Sharif, a key provincial capital in the north of the country, is under Taliban attack.
“Our focus, right now, remains on supporting the Afghan forces in the field where and when it is feasible from the air, as well as completing our drawdown in a safe and orderly way,” Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said today. “We are on track to do that by the end of the month.”
While the security situation is grim it is not irretrievable. “No potential outcome has to be inevitable, including the fall of Kabul, which everybody seems to be reporting about,” Kirby said. “It doesn’t have to be that way. I think it’s going to [depend] on the kind of political and military leadership that the Afghans can muster to turn this around: They have the capability, they have the capacity, and now it’s really time to use those things.”
Afghan government security forces have fought in some areas of the country, the press secretary said.
He stressed — again — that this is an Afghan responsibility and an Afghan military strategy. The United States has provided support in some airstrikes and logistics. “It really is going to come down to their leadership, … They have the advantage in numbers in operational structure, in air forces, and in modern weaponry,” he said. “It’s really about having the will in the leadership to use those advantages to their own benefit.”
Kirby emphasized that the mission U.S. forces were to accomplish in October 2001 has been accomplished. The main purpose for the action was to degrade al-Qaida terror groups who used the nations to plan, rehearse and launch the September 11, 2001 attacks that killed 3,000 Americans. Al-Qaida in Afghanistan has been degraded. Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden was killed.
Still, the U.S. and partners’ presence in Afghanistan sparked incredible progress in the nation. Life expectancy soared. Education opened for millions of girls. The rights of women were increased. A democratically elected government took office.
The president directed DOD to draw down forces commensurate with protecting the U.S. diplomatic presence in the nation. The United States will continue to support Afghan forces through financial means and through some contract support, Kirby said. Finally, DOD needs “to make sure that the greatly reduced threat of terrorism from Afghanistan, stays greatly reduced, and that the homeland doesn’t become victim to an attack, like we did  years ago from terrorist networks that are operating out of Afghanistan,” he said.
The peace process continues between the Afghan government and Taliban representatives. The United States supports that effort. “I don’t believe anybody thinks it’s too late for peace, and we wouldn’t be talking about a political settlement and the need to have a negotiated settlement, if we believed that that peace wasn’t possible,” Kirby said.