Carter supports Ghani's plan for talks with Taliban
WASHINGTON (Pajhwok): President Barack Obama’s nominee for the defence secretary on Wednesday told lawmakers he would recommend changes in current plans of drawdown, both in size and pace, if security conditions on the ground in 2016 degrade in Afghanistan.
“Yes,” said Ashton Carter, when asked during a confirmation hearing if he would consider recommending revisions to the size and pace of the drawdown plan in case security conditions in Afghanistan deteriorated in 2016.
Carter said the next two years represented an important transition period from more than a decade of war toward an enduring defence relationship with an Afghan partner that was capable of providing for its own security and preventing extremists from threatening US interests.
The NATO-led mission America's counterterrorism campaign were cornerstones of his overall strategy that will provide the Afghans an opportunity to make progress on the security situation and serve as a balance against terrorist exploitation of Afghan territory.
“If confirmed, I will continue to seek the advice of our military leadership and partners,” he said, adding the new government in Kabul would be the biggest driver in whether Afghanistan had a positive future.
He hailed President Ashraf Ghani's statement that a continued US and NATO presence was an important component of his strategy for Afghanistan. That provided a key foundation for the transition to a robust, sustainable security relationship in the future, he believed.
Carter supported the current level of 352,000 ANSF personnel, saying he would work with Congress to ensure US efforts to keep them appropriately resourced. If confirmed, he will ensure to work with Afghan ministries of defence and interior to determine the timing for reducing the ANSF to an appropriate size.
He renewed support for an Afghan-led political peace process, in which all opposition groups, including the Taliban, engaged in a dialogue about the future of their country. “The US should continue to support Ghani’s efforts to engage in peace talks..."
Neighbours should play constructive and supportive roles in an Afghan-led reconciliation process, since a stable and peaceful Afghanistan will promote long-term stability and prosperity for the entire region, he noted.
“I hope signs of improved Afghanistan-Pakistan relations provide fresh opportunities for Pakistan to reinforce President Ghani’s efforts toward peace talks between the Afghan Government and the Taliban,” Carter concluded.
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