America’s military posture in Afghanistan is part of a regional context in South Asia and to ensure the war-torn country does not become an “ungoverned space” from which the US can be targeted, Defence Secretary James Mattis said on Friday.
Testifying before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defence, Mattis said the revised strategy for Afghanistan would be presented to the White House soon.
His testimony comes after President Donald Trump authorised him to “manage” US troop levels in Afghanistan amidst a surge in Taliban attacks in the war-ravaged country.
“The delegation of this authority, consistent with the authority President Trump granted me two months for Iraq and Syria does not, at this time, change the troop numbers for Afghanistan,” Mattis said.
The US defence secretary said that though the “overall mission” in Afghanistan is to train the Afghan forces so that terrorists find no haven there, “Our military posture is part of a larger regional context in South Asia.”
He said Trump administration’s primary national interest and the international interest in Afghanistan is ensuring it does not become an “ungoverned space” from which attacks can again be launched against the US, other nations or the Afghan people.
“In this regard our forces are conducting partnered counter-terrorism operations and we are supporting the NATO-led’s mission so in the future the Afghan people can defend themselves,” he said.
A day earlier, Mattis told the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defence that the US is considering issues from India, Pakistan and other nations in the region as part of its Afghan review.
“We would have to change the priorities, we would have to put it in a more regional construct. By regional construct, I mean we consider things, issues from India and Pakistan all the way over to Iran because they’re the bordering nations,” he said.
“And ignoring those means you put in a strategy that has not taken into account some of the most fundamental factors that would impact on its success or failure,” Mattis said.
“We change the way we fight, we change the regional construct and we change our approach to how we deal with this government,” he said.