Pentagon spokesperson says Washington ‘deeply concerned’ about trends in Afghanistan favoring Taliban advances
The U.S. Department of Defense on Monday said Washington continues to have conversations with Islamabad about the safe havens that allegedly exist along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
“Those safe havens are only providing a source of more insecurity, more instability inside Afghanistan,” spokesperson John Kirby told a weekly press briefing. Responding to a question on calls from Afghanistan to “bring pressure on Pakistan,” he stressed that Washington was “not bashful” about having discussions about the terrorist safe havens with the Pakistani leadership. However, he said, the U.S. was mindful of the terrorism that Pakistan and its citizens had to face from the same region.
“We all have a shared sense of the importance of closing down those safe havens and not allowing them to be used by the Taliban or other terrorist networks to sow discord,” he said.
To another question on why the U.S. appeared to not be doing more to help Afghanistan amidst territorial gains by the Taliban, Kirby maintained Washington was helping Kabul in several ways. “We have some capability to do it [airstrikes] from obviously over the horizon, and the strikes that we have taken have all been from over the horizon. And we’ll continue to use those capabilities where and when feasible,” he said, adding that this was not feasible in every situation.
He said that while it was true that the Taliban were advancing rapidly, it was also true that Afghanistan had the capacity, including a capable Air Force, to counter the insurgents. “Whatever the outcome … it [would be] driven by leadership, Afghan leadership, political and military leadership,” he added.
Asked to explain his reasoning for Afghan capacity, the spokesperson noted that Afghanistan had a force of over 300,000 soldiers and police, as well as a modern Air Force and weaponry. “They have a lot of advantages that the Taliban don’t have. Taliban doesn’t have an Air Force, Taliban doesn’t own airspace, they have a lot of advantages. Now, they have to use those advantages,” he said, adding that this had to utilized through joint civil and military efforts.
Admitting that the U.S. remained “deeply concerned about the trends and where it’s going,” Kirby said there was only so much the U.S. could do because their mission was now one of drawdown and that was their primary focus. “This is their country. These are their military forces. These are their provincial capitals; their people to defend … its really going to come down to the leadership that they’re willing to exude here, at this particular moment,” he added.
To a question on what roles Pakistan and India should be playing in Afghanistan, the spokesperson said the U.S. wanted all neighboring countries to avoid actions that would make the situation in Afghanistan more perilous, adding they should continue to try to use international pressure to get a negotiated peaceful political settlement to this war.