KABUL: The South Asia Strategy — now almost a year old — is working, US Defense Secretary James Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon. The secretary spoke before welcoming British Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson to the Pentagon for discussions.
The strategy looks at coalition efforts in Afghanistan in a regional way, because many of the threats in the area are transnational. The strategy also called on the United States to realign its forces in Afghanistan to support the train, advise and assist mission with Afghan security forces and to accompany them on selected operations. But the reconciliation portion of the strategy is the most important pillar, Mattis told reporters, noting that through history, these conflicts and situations are solved via reconciliation. He cited the experiences in Northern Ireland and South Africa as examples.
“The reconciliation effort [is] Afghan-owned, Afghan-led,” the defense secretary said. “We are working very closely with them in everything we are doing alongside our NATO allies, as we engage to try to end this war.” The strategy has confronted the Taliban with a dilemma, and the group was forced to go along with the recent cease-fire that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani declared. The people of Afghanistan came together on that event, and the airwaves were filled with videos of government members and Taliban celebrating together. The pressure is increasing on the Taliban to enter discussions, but there is still a long way to go, Mattis said. “It is still early in this reconciliation process,” he added.