U.S. forces won’t be withdrawing from Afghanistan any time soon, according to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, who said Sunday the mission in America’s longest war will likely “be ongoing into the future for several more years.”
Milley noted that he doesn’t expect the mission to be completed anytime soon.
The effort to prevent Afghanistan from being a safe-haven for terrorists plotting attacks on the U.S. homeland is “ongoing” and has “been ongoing for 18 years,” Gen. Milley told ABC’s “This Week” in an interview a day before Veterans Day celebrations in the United States.
“We went there in order to make sure that Afghanistan never again would be a haven, a safe-haven for terrorists that would attack the United States,” he said. “That mission is not yet complete and in order for that mission to be successful, the government of Afghanistan and the Afghan security forces are going to have to be able to sustain their own internal security to prevent terrorists from using their territory to attack other countries, especially the United States.”
There are some 14,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, as well as thousands of European forces participating in the NATO-led Resolute Support mission.
While his comments fit with the Trump administration’s stated posture toward the Afghan war, the joint chiefs chairman’s message may be seen to run counter to President Trump’s oft-stated claim to be getting America out of so-called “forever wars.”
Mr. Trump has touted the claim to supporters in light of his recent decision to draw down the number of U.S. forces in Syria.
Gen. Milley told ABC that Americans should think back to “the original reason why were are in Afghanistan to begin with, which is 9-1-1.”
Milley said U.S. troops will remain in the Middle Eastern country “for a significant amount of time because it’s in our national interest to be there to help out.”
The general said he expected American troop levels in Syria to stabilize at around 500, insisting that pressure must be maintained on fighters of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group.