The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan vowed Thursday to “annihilate” Afghanistan’s branch of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and “crush the remnants” of al Qaeda.
Gen. John Nicholson said President Trump’s new plan for the Afghanistan war shows Afghans that “the United States and our NATO Allies and partners are with you. We stand with your security forces against terrorists and the enemies of Afghanistan.”
“Along with our Afghan partners, we will relentlessly pursue ISIS-K and annihilate them,” Nicholson told reporters in Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital. “We will continue to crush the remnants of al Qaeda, and we will increase our pressure on all terrorist groups in Afghanistan.”
Trump on Monday unveiled a plan to keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan and is expected to send about 3,900 additional troops to the country in an effort to prevent a power vacuum that would create a new safe haven for terrorists.
Nicholson would not offer any specifics on the new plan but said that “in the coming months, U.S. Forces Afghanistan and NATO will increase its train, advise and assist efforts in Afghanistan. And we will increase our air support to Afghan security forces.”
He also urged the Taliban to join peace negotiations, insisting that they could not win on the battlefield.
“Stop fighting against your countrymen. Stop killing innocent civilians. Stop bringing hardship and misery to the Afghan people. Lay down your arms and join Afghan society. Help build a better future for this country and your own children,” Nicholson said.
But the effort likely faces an uphill climb, with the Taliban’s hold on part of the country showing no signs of relenting
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told The Associated Press after Nicholson’s speech that the group would “not giving our guns to any one and our Taliban are fighting until the last U.S. soldier is no longer here in Afghanistan.”
Nicholson, who had commanded both of U.S. and NATO forces in the country since March 2016, made several references to the president’s Monday night address.
“As President Trump said in his speech, and I quote: ‘These killers need to know that they have nowhere to hide. These killers need to know that no place is beyond the reach of American might and American arms.'”
Trump reportedly suggested firing Nicholson in July after being fed up with the state of the 16-year war and the options being presented to him.
“We aren’t winning,” Trump reportedly said during a Situation Room meeting on Afghanistan. “We are losing.”
Nicholson also said Trump’s approach is different than the past because it is now “guided by conditions on the ground and not arbitrary timelines,” it “provides for U.S. and NATO resources,” and international commitment to Afghanistan “has gotten stronger in the last year.”