AVA- The secretary answered reporters’ questions during a Pentagon press conference this afternoon.
“The Afghan army has taken severe casualties over the past year-and-a-half and they’ve stayed in the field fighting,” the secretary said.
Afghan forces are showing their resilience, Mattis said. “When people say something is unsustainable, it is better to look at what they have actually sustained and it appears they’ve sustained it somehow,” he said.
Coalition forces in the country continue to train, advise and assist Afghan security forces. Coalition forces are also adjusting tactics and bringing more support to certain areas, the secretary said.
U.S. and coalition officials constantly review operations in Afghanistan, the secretary said. The reviews look at casualties, numbers of Afghan troops trained, numbers employed and more. “Then you crank in the nonquantifiables -- the fatwas that have been voted against [the Taliban and terrorists] by clerics from Riyadh to Djakarta, the peace marchers, the ceasefire,” he said. “It is ongoing and every month we will be looking at this. We know where we are headed.”
On a different subject, the secretary said U.S. officials are working with Poland to examine whether to build an American base in that country.
The process is in its very early stages. “A base has also got adjacent, close-in additional requirements for maintenance, for test flights, for test firing,” he said. “Then it has firing ranges, maneuver ranges.”
Officials will examine the available area and size up what it can actually hold and sustain. “We’re in that exploratory phase,” Mattis said. “We’ve made no decisions.”
The secretary said the United States would engage with other regional allies and partners before making a decision. Poland joined NATO in March 1999.
“Right now, we are determining what is the [Polish] offer, and what is what I would call the ‘carrying capacity’ of what is being offered,” he said. “We are still early in [the process] and we are working together, and we are greatly appreciative of the Polish offer.”