WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary James Mattis said Tuesday that the United States is looking “toward a victory” in Afghanistan that is based on a political reconciliation and not a military triumph.
Mattis landed in Afghanistan on Tuesday, part of a trip to the region this week that includes stops in Oman and Bahrain.
The visit was not announced in advance for security reasons and the media was not permitted to publish the news until Mattis was at U.S. military headquarters in Kabul — a response to a Taliban attack on the airport in September after Mattis’ last visit.
“What does that victory look like? It’s a country whose own people and their own security forces can handle law enforcement and any threats, basically using their own security forces, certainly with international support for some years to come,” Mattis told pool reporters on the flight to Kabul.
The 16-year U.S. involvement in Afghanistan is America’s longest-running conflict.
“Of course I’ll be reviewing the military campaign for its alignment with where we want to go politically, but this constitutes what we believe is the most viable path to peace,” Mattis told pool reporters. He said he plans to meet with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and chief executive Abdullah Abdullah to discuss specifically the reconciliation process.
Mattis said the offer Ghani made to the Taliban two weeks ago — talks without preconditions — is the type of step that is crucial to moving forward on reconciliation.
“We’ve always said it’s going to be an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led process,” Mattis told pool reporters. “I would just say that that’s got to have a lot of substance to it. So that will be where I focus, the substance to the reconciliation process.”
Editor’s Note: Talk Media News is part of the rotating pool of reporters that travel with Mattis. All members of the pool are allowed to use the comments and reports whether they are present or not.