Archive for May 9th, 2017

Counter-ISIS Campaign to Intensify, Mattis Says

May 9, 2017

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Yellow Ribbon America Breaking News!

By Terri Moon Cronk

DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, May 9, 2017 — The U.S.-led coalition will accelerate its campaign to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said today in a joint press conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, with Defense Minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen.

“We will further accelerate this fight to free people from ISIS’ crushing occupation and [the] enemy’s terror threat to Europe and beyond,” Mattis said.

The secretary is on his first stop of a three-country trip to Europe. In Copenhagen, he and Fredericksen co-chaired a 15-country defense ministerial on defeating ISIS, officials said.

The Danish defense minister described the effort to defeat of ISIS as one of Denmark’s highest priorities. Denmark agreed during the ministerial to substantially increase its defense budget to aid in the counter-ISIS campaign.

“We are committed to working together — all of us — and that was reinforced today in our meeting with many partners: to defeat [ISIS] wherever it attempts to establish its roots,” Mattis said.

ISIS Won’t Escape

The secretary said the coalition in Raqqa, Syria, is getting into position to surround the city.

“The idea, ladies and gentlemen, is that the foreign fighters not be allowed to escape and return to constitute a threat against free and innocent people elsewhere, whether it be in the Arabian Gulf, North Africa, and certainly Europe,” he said.

ISIS has lost a significant amount of territory that it once held — more than half in Iraq and in Syria, Mattis said.

“ISIS has lost two-thirds of its strength in Afghanistan,” said the secretary, who also noted the death in Nangarhar province of the ISIS-Khorasan emir over the past weekend.

“In our anti-ISIS campaign, we are dealing that group one more significant blow with the loss of their leader,” Mattis said.

And the fight will go on, he emphasized.

“We continue to integrate our military and nonmilitary efforts,” Mattis said. “You have to remember the battlefield we are fighting on is also a humanitarian field where innocent people live [and] are sometimes forced to stay on a battlefield by ISIS. We’re doing everything humanly possible to limit the suffering and any casualties among those innocent people.”

Bilateral Meeting

Mattis said he and Frederiksen also conducted a “substantive” bilateral meeting in Copenhagen.

“Denmark has always been a stalwart ally and friend of the United States, and the close defense relationship between our two countries reflects the enduring strength of NATO’s transatlantic bond, [with us] having stood by each other in good times and in bad,” Mattis said.

“The American people are truly heartened by your government’s commitment to share the cost of the common defense through a substantial increase in defense spending,” Mattis said to Frederiksen. “Times have changed; 2014 was an eye-opener for all of us, minister, and we have to change with the times.”

Mattis said he and the Danish defense minister also recognized that Denmark occupies a “rather unique role” as a member of NATO, as a member of the European Union and as a member of the Arctic Council.

“In our NATO affiliation, I affirmed that the U.S. commitment to Article 5 [of the North Atlantic Treaty] is ironclad,” Mattis said. Article 5 established the alliance in 1949, and states that an attack on one allied country is an attack on all.

“We stand together, minister, visible and indivisible, in the face of any threats to international law or to a peaceful, international order,” the secretary said.

 

Picture: U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis arrives in Copenhagen to attend a ministerial with coalition countries to discuss the counter-Islamic State of Iraq and Syria campaign, May 8, 2017. Mattis also met with Danish Defense Minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen. DoD photo by Air Force Staff Sgt. Jette Carr

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U.S. Officials Studying Force Size in Afghanistan, Dunford Says

May 9, 2017

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Yellow Ribbon America Breaking News!

By Jim Garamone

DoD News, Defense Media Activity

JERUSALEM, May 9, 2017 — No decisions on whether to increase U.S. forces in Afghanistan have been made yet, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told reporters in Israel today.

Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford said national security leaders have not gone to President Donald J. Trump yet with Afghanistan troop recommendations for 2017 and beyond.

“One of the key discussions we are going to have is what are the horizons for the mission in Afghanistan and how do we articulate it,” Dunford said in an interview. “I expect [Defense] Secretary [Jim] Mattis and I, and others, will brief the president, soon.”

Any increase in the NATO and U.S. mission to Afghanistan must be viewed in context, the general said. In the past year, Afghan forces have taken a lot of casualties in battling the Taliban and other groups. Army Gen. John M. Nicholson, the commander of Operation Resolute Support in Afghanistan, described the situation in Afghanistan as a “stalemate” during testimony before Congress last month.

Secure, Stable Afghanistan

Dunford said the situation is clearly not moving in the direction Afghan President Ashraf Ghani wants it to. Last year, Ghani announced a four-year plan, which looked at what was possible for the future of his country. It included a listing of the goals for a secure and stable Afghanistan.

Nicholson took this plan and reviewed the campaign to identify what he would need to assist the Afghan government in realizing Ghani’s plan. His recommendations are in the Pentagon and are being discussed among high-level officials across the U.S. government.

“It is fair to say that we have looked at all the potential ways to accelerate the campaign and meet President Ghani’s objective outlined in his four-year plan,” Dunford said.

The president has spoken with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, and the organization has begun conversations with troops contributing nations. The chairman will be in Brussels next week to speak with fellow NATO chiefs of defense. And on his three-day trip, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has been meeting with the ministers of defense for the counter-ISIS coalition.

Besides force levels, new authorities, new capabilities, economic reforms and political aspects must also be addressed, Dunford said.

“It’s all of those things being reviewed” and they all have to be looked at holistically, he said.

Regional Threats

ISIS-Khorasan is active in Afghanistan, as well as almost 20 other designated terror groups in the Central Asia/South Asia region.

“I know from personal experience that the pressure we put on al-Qaida and those terror groups every day for the last 16 years is the reason they have not regenerated and conducted attacks,” he said. “I also know they have aspirations to conduct attacks, and an ungoverned space in Afghanistan or South Asia would be contrary to our interests.”

Meanwhile, the fight against global terrorism continues, Dunford said.

“We can be tired, but war is a clash of wills,” the chairman said. “Who wins and who loses? Who loses is [he] whose will is lost first. What we need to be mindful of is not low long we’ve been there, but what is the remaining threat to the United States and coalition partners.”

The American presence in South Asia is necessary to stop Afghanistan from becoming an ungoverned space again, Dunford said.

“It’s pretty clear to me that Afghanistan could possibly be a place where there are proxy wars with various regional actors, as well,” he said.

Counterterrorism Mission

The Afghanistan campaign is a counterterrorism mission under U.S. auspices, Dunford said. That mission must continue “as long as there is a threat — and I am not going to put a timeline on that,” he said.

It will end, he said, when the underlying conditions that give rise to terrorism are addressed. “That doesn’t reflect the size of the mission, but I would expect some influence, some presence is going to be necessary for an extended period of time,” Dunford said. “Some people call this a generational war. If that’s the case, we need to be prepared as a nation to deal with it.”

Still, the form of the American presence in Afghanistan will change, the chairman said. “We have a ‘by, with and through’ strategy meaning what we’re trying to do is enable local forces, in this case Afghans, to provide security inside Afghanistan,” he said. “I do believe Afghan forces are making progress.”

He noted that when he took over as commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul four years ago, there were 120,000 American service members in the country. When he left, there were 28,000. Now there are around 9,000 Americans in-country.

“The first two seasons the Afghans have been providing security on their own, it has been a pretty tough fight,” Dunford said.

If the Taliban think all they have to do is hold out one more year and then the international forces leave and the capabilities that the coalition gives the Afghan forces will be gone, then they will hang on, the chairman said.

“But if there is an extended commitment by the international community that says we are prepared to do what has to be done as long as it takes to get the Afghans where they need to be … that’s a different story,” he said.