The nominee to lead US and coalition forces in Afghanistan said the security situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating, and Afghan security forces still need assistance, particularly in aviation. “The Resolute Support mission is a vitally important part of our national effort to protect our homeland from terrorist threats, and to enable sustainable Afghan capacity to secure their own country,” Army Lt. Gen. John Nicholson told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday. Nicholson said Afghans “fight extremely well at the tactical level,” but the coalition has had to create systems to sustain the force from the ground up. And while there is a long-range plan for close air support, “the challenge is right now we have a shortfall in Afghan airpower,” he said. “Eventually, as the Afghan air force and army aviation is trained, they’ll be able to fill that gap. So, in the interim… the question is what to do.” The Senate is considering whether to confirm Nicholson for a fourth star and to succeed Army Gen. John Campbell. (Nicholson’s answers to advanced policy questions.) (Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s statement on pending Afghanistan command change.)
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.