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Afghan Forces Give Enemy Incentive to Reconcile, Resolute Support Chief Says

KABUL, Afghanistan, July 16, 2016 — The expanded authorities he now has to support Afghan forces offensively could give a big boost to efforts to defeat the Taliban and other terrorists, the commander of NATO’s Resolute Support mission and U.S. forces in  Afghanistan said here today.

"Armies win on the offense," Army Gen. John W. Nicholson told reporters today at the Resolute Support headquarters. "You obviously have to defend sometimes. Usually, you defend in order to preserve strength to apply offensively elsewhere to win, and this is no exception."

With Afghan forces on the offensive, the enemy has an incentive to reconcile, Nicholson said. President Barack Obama granted the new authorities to Nicholson in June.

"I think ultimately, this is what would convince the enemy that they cannot win," Nicholson said, adding that bringing about a political reconciliation is the goal.

Nicholson briefed reporters traveling with Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who is in Afghanistan for talks with Afghan, U.S. and coalition partners to assess the Resolute Support train, advise and assist mission.

International Commitment to Afghanistan

The Afghan forces are holding up against the enemy, Nicholson said. Notable events include successfully defending Kunduz in the spring. After Kunduz, the Afghan forces shifted their main effort to the south, to Kandahar and Helmand. Their next point of concentration will be on the east, the general said. "But this in no way means they take any pressure off of any of these other areas," he added.

The psychological impact of international support "can't be overstated," Nicholson said. He pointed out a number of recent highlights, including NATO’s recent summit in Warsaw, Poland, and Obama's decision on troop levels and the additional authorities.

Obama recently announced that, instead of shrinking U.S. forces to about 5,500, he will maintain a U.S. troop presence of 8,400 in Afghanistan through the end of his term in January. At NATO’s summit this month, the alliance renewed its commitment to the Resolute Support mission and agreed to fund Afghan forces until 2020.

In addition, Nicholson said, the May 21 killing of Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansur, the head of the Taliban, in a U.S. airstrike "had a more profound impact than I think we even estimated it would.”

"It really demonstrated our commitment to them and to strike at the enemy -- something we had not done previously against enemy leadership in Pakistan," the general said, adding that the combination of all the factors over the last few months has made a "big difference for the Afghans."

Afghan forces, notably the 215th Afghan National Army Corps in Helmand, have suffered tremendous losses in the conflict, Nicholson said.

"What's impressive about this is the resilience of the Afghan forces to suffer these losses but stay in the fight and recover and keep going back at the enemy,” he said. And they have demonstrated that time and again."

(Follow Lisa Ferdinando on Twitter @FerdinandoDoD)
Distribution channels: Military