Gen. John Nicholson, the commander of US Forces and NATO in Afghanistan, addressed a press in Kabul on Thursday and said the Taliban has become a “criminal organization that is more interested in profits from drugs, kidnapping and murder for hire.”
He called on the group to lay down their arms and end the war.
“Taliban have a simple choice: Stop fighting against your countrymen. Stop killing innocent civilians. Stop bringing hardship and misery,” he said.
He also said: “We will not fail in Afghanistan. Our national security depends on that as well.”
Nicholson made it clear that the US and NATO stand by the Afghan security forces against terrorists and enemies of Afghanistan and said that the Taliban cannot win on the battlefield. “It’s time for them to join the peace process.”
“Afghan people want peace and the international community are with you in that journey – it’s a shared vision we can all work towards,” he said.
Nicholson said that the US forces and NATO Resolute Support Mission will increase train, advise, assist efforts in Afghanistan and more advisors from the US and NATO means enhancing training at military schools and growing the Afghan Air Force and Special Forces.
The “Afghan Air Force (is) growing in size, strength. We know the enemy fears air power. They have good reason to,” he said.
He also stated that the US deeply appreciates and respects the sacrifices and strength of the Afghan people and the security forces.
On Daesh, he said the group was being crushed in Nangarhar and that the US will pursue them wherever else they choose to make their stand.
He also stated that: “We will continue to crush the remnants of Al-Qaeda and will increase our pressure on all terrorist groups.”
He said that the US’s new strategy is guided by conditions on the ground, and not by “arbitrary timelines”. He would also not disclose the number of additional troops expected to be sent to Afghanistan.
In conclusion he said that Afghan people reject terror.
“90 percent of the people of Afghanistan believe a return to Taliban rule would be bad for the country. We agree,” he said.
“Let me say to the brave people of Afghanistan who only wish to live in a peaceful country: US, your NATO allies and partners are with you. This policy announcement by (President) Donald Trump is proof of our continued commitment.”
Hugo Llorens, the current Special Chargé d’Affaires of the US Embassy in Kabul, also addressed the press conference and said: “Today we are here to show our support to the national unity government and the Afghan people.”
He said the US’s new strategy focuses on challenges in Afghanistan and Pakistan and that the strategy makes the US’s commitments very clear.
He also said the strategy recognizes the importance of the fight against the Taliban.
Llorens stated that the Taliban has a choice, continue killing Afghans or seek reconciliation.
He said the US was fully behind the Afghan government and that it “is clear that we are fighting against terrorism in Afghanistan.”
Llorens said: “We must maintain pressure on Taliban to join peace process.”
He said that the new strategy encompassed all regional countries and that “we look to Pakistan to take decisive action against militant groups.”
He said that regional cooperation was needed in order for Afghanistan to succeed.