Afghanistan and the United States on Sunday discussed a joint strategy to counter the Islamic State group’s rise in the country, which has become increasingly violent.
President Ashraf Ghani and the United States’ outgoing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey discussed “the possibility of forming a network to oppose the transregional threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant,” the US Department of Defense said.
“I think we’re all having an important discussion on how to address the transregional nature of what is clearly a persistent threat that has to be addressed at a sustainable level of effort over a period of time,” Dempsey told reporters travelling with him.
He emphasized the need for a trans-national and trans-regional strategy to counter the spreading influence of the group. Dempsey summarized Ghani’s view on the issue: “His view is: ‘Hey, look, I’m a willing partner in an area where you may not have willing partners,” he told reporters.
“In Iraq and Syria, you might say they (Daesh) are in stage 6 or 7 or 8. In Libya, they are in stage 3 or 4, and in Afghanistan they are in stage 1 or 2,” Dempsey remarked.
Dempsey said the United States should address this transregional threat with a transregional strategy. IS began in Iraq and Syria, but has spread to the Sinai, Libya and into Nigeria. Now the group is recruiting in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” he said.
The chairman said he has asked Army Gen. John F. Campbell, NATO’s Resolute Support mission chief in Kabul, to expand his assessment of the current campaign in Afghanistan to include the changing nature of the threat and “to give us his insights into what he thinks we should do.”
Dempsey said President Ghani told him in their meeting that Afghanistan should be a regional hub in a transregional network that includes the Levant, Iraq, North Africa and West Africa.
The chairman said Ghani’s idea falls in line with his own thinking, but that he would like a discussion among American leaders on what the objective would be. “Once we have a clear idea of what we would like to accomplish … over a 10 year period,” he said, “then we should discuss what authorities would be needed, … as well as what resources can be applied.”
The long-term look is important, the general said, because this is a generational fight and the level of resources supplied must be sustainable over 10 years. “I don’t want to do this one year at a time,” he said.
Afghanistan could be a coalition counterterrorism partner and a South Asia hub. Ghani also pointed out to Dempsey that other global actors – Russia, China and Iran –also were concerned about the rising IS movement and were looking to Afghanistan for help. Ghani believes Afghanistan could be an exporter of stability in this type of program, Dempsey said.