By: Zack Duvall
U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis arrived at Afghanistan’s main airport located in Kabul at roughly 11 am Wednesday, just hours later that same airport would come under siege by Taliban insurgents fighting a war against the American-backed Afghan government.
Secretary Mattis had traveled to Afghanistan from India where he was seeking support for the new U.S. plan regarding security policies in Southeast Asia and U.S. action on the issue of North Korea moving forward.
He is currently in Afghanistan in order to reaffirm American support for the Afghan government as it struggles to maintain power in the face of a recent surge in Taliban offensives that have seen the militant group rise to the strongest it has been since the 2001 U.S. invasion.
During a joint press conference held just after news of the attack had spread where he appeared with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg, General Mattis said that the U.S. would not allow the Taliban to “kill its way to power” and vowed a more “holistic” approach to the situation without timelines and with the cooperation of regional partners such as Pakistan.
“I want to reinforce to the Taliban that the only path to peace and political legitimacy for them is through a negotiated settlement.” Secretary Mattis said during his statements.
Afghan’s president also took time during the news conference to reiterate his government’s commitment to establishing peace through effective and “constructive” dialogue.
“Whatever sacrifice it requires to bring enduring peace and security to this country, we’ll be committed to it.” Ghani said on Wednesday.
This week’s visit by Mattis is the first in what will be a series of official visits by the general as the Trump administration implements its new strategy in Afghanistan and America’s involvement in the nation going forward.
The White House’s plan includes a renewed military offensive for which the president has already authorized an increase in troop number to facilitate, as well as turning away from the policy of “nation building” in Afghanistan in favor of one that will see the U.S. use its assets on the ground to eliminate the Taliban and its leadership.
With the intention of weakening the group substantially once again to lead to favorable negotiations with the militant group, who has, historically, always maintained a tribal system that was more powerful than the Afghan government.
Wednesday’s attack by the Taliban saw 13 Afghan citizens wounded, while 3 attackers were killed by security forces in the ensuing gunfight. The attackers initially used rocket-propelled grenades and numerous rounds of mortar fire to strike the Kabul Airport before holding-up in a nearby building and resisting Afghan forces for more than four hours.
Security experts say that the attack is clear evidence that the Afghans are losing the war with the Taliban and that the need for American support in order for the Afghan government to sustain itself remains unchanged after nearly two decades of fighting in the country.
The Trump administration has vowed to continue the fight against the militant groups in the region until a “desirable outcome” that honored the sacrifices of the U.S. servicemen and women killed in the conflict was achieved.