U.S Defense Secretary Ashton Carter arrived in Afghanistan on Friday where he met American troops deployed at Bagram Airbase outside Kabul and reaffirmed the U.S’s cooperation for a sovereign and capable Afghan air force.
Speaking at a joint press conference with Afghan acting defense minister, Masoom Stanekzai at the U.S military base he said that next year will be a challenging year for Afghan forces and that the Taliban and other terrorist groups will try to gain their own ground but U.S forces along with Afghan forces will continue to fight them.
“The future for Afghanistan that we are building together is once they have their own air forces, that’s why the delivery of the A-29 here is so important. For those who don’t know that is a fighter aircraft – basically they can do close air support that will be Afghan only, Afghan operated and the same is to evolve the helicopters that are being delivered to Afghanistan and the Afghan pilots are being trained.”
“U.S forces are helping Afghan forces from the air not as much as in the past. But that is part of the plan which is to get to the point where Afghans are able to provide their own air support. That is why the buildup of Afghan air forces is going on right now – we wish we started it earlier but it is underway. It will be completed over the next year,” Carter said.
In addition Carter warned against a surge in violence in the country next year.
“I expect in the next year further fighting to be hard too, the reason that the minister and I are meeting here today is to make sure that next year and every year thereafter the Afghan forces will get stronger and stronger ….. They have their own air power, they have their own intelligence, they have their own command and control,” said Carter.
“We will face some shortage in terms of equipment, but there is no evidence about lack of commitment. Daesh is part of the propaganda aimed to demoralize the people. From where Daesh is funded? The people of Nangarhar know it better that from where Daesh is being funded and their caravan is sent from which location,” Afghan acting minister of defense Masoom Stanekzai said.
The visit comes on the heels of the Commander of Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan General John Campbell’s recent comments on the possibility of foreign fighters from Syria and Iraq joining Daesh militants in Afghanistan.