US to keep permanent military presence in South Asia: Top General

US to keep permanent military presence in South Asia: Top General

WASHINGTON - US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Joseph F. Dunford said on Tuesday that the United States has permanent interest in South Asia and will maintain its presence to have influence in that region.

“We have permanent interests in South Asia, diplomatic interests and security interests. And we’re going to maintain a presence to have influence in that region. The diplomatic presence, the security presence, and the form of that presence is going to change over time,” he said while speaking at a press briefing at the Pentagon with Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis.

Gen. Dunford said that at one point, the United States had over a hundred thousand U.S. forces in Afghanistan as compared to 14,000 at present, adding there would be a permanent diplomatic mission in Afghanistan.

“There ‘ll be permanent diplomatic presence across South Asia, but I certainly don’t expect that the current forces that we have in Afghanistan represents an enduring large military commitment,” he added.

US Secretary of States, Mattis, said that the United States would continue to work in South and informed that the UAE and Qatar have now joined the NATO-led campaign in Afghanistan as partner nations. He also stated that 32 of the 39 nations which have already committed forces to the mission agreed to either increase or sustain the current force levels in Afghanistan through 2019.

He said that when reviewing the South Asia strategy, the administration knew that it would take time. “We believe we can make — make progress right now”.

Replying to a question, Secretary Mattis said that the US was fully supporting Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation efforts, and hard fighting is going on to convince the Taliban they must negotiate. He said that there were positive reasons to stick with the South Asia strategy and “we are going to drive this to a negotiated settlement, is our goal. That remains the same.” Asked about the South Asia strategy that was implemented in summer last year, Mattis referred to a recent statement by a Taliban leader who made specific mention of negotiations as a way to bring an end to war.

“This one of the most forward-leaning statements made yet by a Taliban supreme leader, even as they conduct attacks designed to garner press attention, costing lives, and they are now stripped, however, of any religious guise for an inhumane campaign against the Afghan people,” he added.

Gen. Dunford said that in the Central Command, the US remained focused on our mission in Afghanistan, the defeat-ISIS campaign in Iraq and Syria, and countering Iran’s destabilizing influence across the region.

To a question, Secretary Mattis said to ensure that the American security was not threatened from the Afghan soil, “that involves the Afghan people being in control of their own future. This is why we talked about an Afghan-led Afghan-owned reconciliation process”. - APP