Tillerson’s Stark Message To Taliban: ‘We’re Not Going Anywhere’

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Joseph Abrego)

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Saagar Enjeti White House Correspondent
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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson doubled down on an enduring U.S. military commitment in Afghanistan, in a Wednesday speech before the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Tillerson’s message underpins President Donald Trump’s conditions based strategy for America’s longest war. The U.S. would militarily stay in Afghanistan as long it takes to get Taliban insurgents to lay down their arms and enter peace talks with the Afghan National Government, Trump underscored in an Aug. 21 address on South Asia.

“We’ll be here as long as it takes until you change your mind,” Tillerson said. The Taliban, however, have little reason to negotiate after banner years in the Afghan war. The group controls more territory than at any time since the U.S. invasion since 2001 along with nearly a third of the Afghan population.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis authorized the deployment of an additional 3,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan after Trump’s speech and the U.S. is dropping a record number of bombs on the Taliban. U.S. rules of engagement in Afghanistan now allow airstrikes on Taliban militants anywhere in the country regardless of whether they are targeting U.S. or Afghan National Security Forces, Trump noted in a recent radio interview.

Tillerson delivered a similar message to the Taliban in the wake of Trump’s August speech, telling the State Department press corps “You will not win a battlefield victory. We may not win one, but neither will you.”

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