The top commander in Afghanistan said the US is not winning the war there and laid out steps to change the course Thursday at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “I believe we’re in a stalemate,” said Army Gen. John Nicholson, who commands Operation Resolute Support. When asked by senators what “success” in the 15-year-old conflict would look like, Nicholson said first that the prevention of another major terrorist attack on the US since 2001 meant the mission has already succeeded. He went on to say coalition forces needed to “destroy the Islamic State and al Qaeda in Afghanistan,” extend the Afghan government’s control over population and territory, and create an environment where “reconciliation is achieved with the belligerents.” The key to accomplishing this mission, he said, is the increased capacity of Afghan security forces. “Offensive capability will break the stalemate,” Nicholson insisted, and he said US plans call for increased investment in the Afghan air force and an effort to “almost double the number of special forces units” in the next four years. After the achievement of these goals, Nicholson envisioned “an enduring counterterrorism operation” that would continue “in the context of a safe and prosperous Afghanistan.”
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.