The fight against terrorism has entered a phase in which small gun fights are the norm, and it is likely to continue for the immediate future, Secretary of Defense James Mattis told reporters Monday while on a visit to Afghanistan.
“We’re in an era of frequent skirmishing,” said Mattis, addressing the chances of winning the war. “It’s going to be far-flung, and that’s the nature of this fight. And concise, short definitions in one local area or another do not give sufficient credit to really defining the complexity of the issue.”
Mattis’s comments come three days after the Taliban engaged in one of the deadliest attacks on Afghan troops since the U.S. invasion in 2001. Approximately 10 Taliban fighters assaulted a mosque and killed more than 160 Afghan soldiers in the Balkh province Friday.
“And, as if we needed a reminder, as I stand here before you, of the type of enemy that we’re up against, the killing of Afghan citizens, soldiers, protectors of the people, just as they were coming out of a mosque, you know, coming out of a house of worship — it certainly characterizes this fight for exactly what it is,” said Mattis in his opening remarks.
The secretary met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani as part of his trip to gather information on the security situation in what has become America’s longest conflict. Mattis will present a review of the U.S. Afghanistan policy for President Donald Trump sometime in the future.
Mattis noted that 2017 is going to be “another tough year” for the Afghan security forces. Both the Afghanistan government, Taliban and Islamic State Khorasan are gearing up for the start of the country’s traditional spring to fall fighting season.
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