Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said America needs to keep forces in Afghanistan for now to prevent terrorists including al-Qaeda from regrouping and posing a threat to the U.S.
Mattis said Monday in an interview on Bloomberg Television that the U.S. can’t leave Afghanistan’s forces alone to fight terrorists and hold the country together.
“We cannot do that right now without boots on the ground,” Mattis said.
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“We’re going to have to stick with those countries that are not yet ready to do it on their own and keep enough boots on the ground, probably the number dropping year by year as they mature, but enough boots on the ground not to simply turn the ground back over to the very enemy that attacked us before.”
In the interview on Monday, Mattis said it’s crucial to work with allies to stabilize safe havens for terrorists.
Earlier this month at the Council on Foreign Relations, Mattis indirectly criticized the Trump administration’s current push for an accord with the Taliban by comparing it to former President Barack Obama’s troop drawdown from Iraq, which he sees as a strategic blunder that let Islamic State terrorists flourish.
“We can declare the war over but the enemy gets a vote,” he said. “The idea that we can now turn our back to this threat and that we’re going to live in an island in the global community unaffected by it just doesn’t match. We’re going to have to learn from our past.”