US Secretary of Defense James Mattis on Tuesday said that achieving reconciliation is the most important goal of the US Afghan strategy.
Speaking at the United States Institute of Peace, a government-funded think tank, on the topic of the National Defense Strategy, Mattis said that Zalmay Khalilzad, the US Special Envoy for Afghanistan’s Reconciliation, is working in this regard.
He said when they put out the strategy together, they put it together and called it “Four Rs” plus S – to sustain it. First R was to regionalize the approach, next was to add more troops in or to reinforce it as the third R, realign those forces to support the Afghan forces directly by training, advising and assisting.
“The most important R was the fourth R, reconciliation. And on that, you saw ambassador Khalilzad has been presented with the portfolio, he is working on it…. And he is hard at work on this, on an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation effort,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mattis did not reject the possibility of the continued presence of US and NATO forces after achieving peace in Afghanistan, but he said that any role by the US after achieving peace will be based on the situation on the ground and in consultation with the Afghan government.
“US military coalition role after peace has been reached would be conditions-based, worked out with the Afghan government, depending on the threat,” he said.
He also disclosed part of Afghan forces casualties’ figures – which is not debated by Afghan government.
“The Afghan (forces) are doing the fighting just look at the casualties, over a thousand dead in August and September, a thousand dead and wounded in August and September, and they stayed in the field fighting and the Taliban has been prevented from doing what they said they are going to do which was to take hold of district and provincial centers also disrupting elections but they were unable to disrupt (these),” said Mattis.
The Afghan government and the US took a decision in 2016 that they would no longer make public the casualty toll of the Afghan forces.
On Friday, Gen. Joseph Dunford, the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in Washington that they would still not give out these figures.