U.S. Department of State
Secretary of State, Michael R. Pompeo
July 9, 2018
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you. Thank you, good afternoon. I want to thank you, President Ghani. I want to thank Dr. Abdullah and the entire Afghan National Security Council for hosting me here today. It’s been a pleasure to meet with you at the palace.
On behalf of the American people, I want to express my deep appreciation for the American soldiers, Airmen, Marines, and sailors who are serving and sacrificing here alongside forces from NATO. I look forward to spending time with some of them after I leave here today.
I also want to commend the brave Afghan warriors, soldiers, airmen, and police who risk their lives every day to made Afghans more secure and safer.
Now, more than ever, the United States stands as an enduring partner for Afghanistan. It’s been almost one year since President Trump announced the new South Asia strategy. It features a conditions-based approach and the removal of artificial timelines and arbitrary troop ceilings. We’re working with the Afghan Government and security forces to set the conditions to produce a safer, more secure Afghanistan which is Afghan-led and Afghan-owned.
You should know that the peace process is the same. The United States will support, facilitate, and participate in these peace discussions, but peace must be decided by the Afghans and settled among them. We expect that these peace talks will include a discussion of the role of international actors and forces.
I came here today to learn the progress that we’d made in each of the dimensions. My conclusion from this visit is that the President’s strategy is indeed working. Our South Asia strategy has sent a clear message to the Afghan peoples and its security services that we will support them as they continue to fight to defend their country and their people.
The strategy has sent a clear message too to the Taliban – they cannot wait us out – and we are beginning to see the results both on the battlefield where the Taliban’s momentum is slowing and in the prospects for peace with them.
We’ve also today had the chance to discuss the progress Afghanistan is making to prepare for elections this fall. We support the Afghan Government and Security Forces as they work to ensure safe, credible, and transparent polls that reflect the will of the Afghan people. We call on all of our partners to continue this support.
And finally, I’d like to congratulate the Government of Afghanistan on its progress towards reform. I’m encouraged to see the Afghan Government fighting corruption and developing a roadmap for its economy – for the country’s economy, including a clear vision for stable development of the mining sector.
One again, President Ghani, thank you so much. Chief Executive Abdullah, thank you. You have been gracious hosts. The United States remains committed to working with the Afghan Government and the Afghan people to advance security, political stability, and accountability, along with democratic governance among the Afghan people. Thank you.
MR CHAKHANSURI: Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, Mr. Secretary. We’ll take some questions now.
Hoshidi (ph) from Shamshad.
QUESTION: (In Dari.)
SECRETARY POMPEO: I’m sorry, I —
PRESIDENT GHANI: Was it translated?
SECRETARY POMPEO: No, I didn’t get that. My –
MR CHAKHANSURI: So the question is that the peace process, the Taliban has rejected peace dialogues and negotiations and they now have some partners in the region as well, with – partnership with some other countries. What are the next steps and how will we proceed with the peace process?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So the peace process will be Afghan-led. It will be amongst the Afghan people. We have been very encouraged following the ceasefire to see how the Afghan people have responded to that. We think that bodes well for the peace process. Having said that, we are prepared to participate in that, to facilitate, to help the Afghan people resolve their differences and to arrive at a place where all of the Afghan people can have their voices heard and live in a society that is peaceful and security and where every Afghan is treated with the dignity that each of them deserves.
MS NAUERT: The next question will go to Kylie Atwood from CBS News. One question, please.
QUESTION: Thank you. Secretary Pompeo, the U.S. has now been here in Afghanistan for almost 17 years, as you well know, and the Trump administration, as you said, is one year into its strategy, a conditions-based strategy, but there aren’t many signals of success. The territory under Taliban control has grown. And as you noted, an American service member just died here. This is the third fatality of an American military member this year. You say the strategy is working, but where is the evidence that Trump and his administration’s strategy here is indeed working?
And the U.S. has also said it would facilitate talks between the Afghan Government and the Taliban. Can you characterize U.S. engagement with the Taliban at this point? Thank you.
SECRETARY POMPEO: So that was two questions.
QUESTION: Both on Afghanistan.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Interestingly, they’re connected. An element of the progress is the capacity that we now have to believe that there is hope that many of the Taliban now see that they can’t win on the ground militarily. That’s – they’re – deeply connected to President Trump’s strategy. We saw this. We saw what happened. We saw the Taliban respond to the ceasefire that President Ghani put in place. These are linked issues. The progress we’ve made in the South Asia strategy in increasing the size and the capability of the Afghan Security Forces, in strengthening the reforms inside the Afghan Government; the work that we have done to demonstrate to the Taliban that the continuation of fighting will lead them to a bad outcome, not one that’s in the best interests of the people in the regions where they operate – each of those are hallmarks of real progress.
Make no mistake, there’s still a great deal of work to do. That is certainly the case, and the American role will be important in this. But we can’t run the peace talks. We can’t settle this from the outside. This will be settled by the Afghan people coming together, their cumulative realization that living together in harmony and peace, treating each other with dignity – we saw that during the ceasefire and we have seen it in the aftermath. We are very hopeful that that will lead to a successful reduction in violence as we move into the elections.
We’re counting on all the actors in the region to be supportive of that. The Pakistanis too need to understand that they need – we need to have a set of elections that do not have violence. We’re counting on all of the actors in the region to support this process and make sure the Afghan people can have their voices heard during these elections. We think each of those is greatly increased as a result of the strategy that President Trump laid out now almost 12 months ago.
MR CHAKHANSURI: (In Dari.)
QUESTION: (In Dari.)
MR CHAKHANSURI: (In Dari.)
QUESTION: (In Dari.)
PRESIDENT GHANI: (In Dari.)
MS NAUERT: Next question, John Hudson from The Washington Post.
QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Just given the importance of the North Korea issue, I wanted to ask you: Yesterday, you put out the prospect of offering security guarantees to North Korea as it starts the denuclearization process. What are those security guarantees? Does it include an agreement to formally end the Korean War? Would you consider removing U.S. troops or weapons systems?
And after your visit in Pyongyang, North Korea issued a pretty aggressive statement. I was just wondering – you’ve spent so much time building this relationship, seeing what’s happening, visiting Pyongyang – did you get a sense of what was the issue that really triggered North Korea to walk away with a different sentiment that you had in the good-faith negotiations? Thanks very much.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, I’d really prefer to talk about Afghanistan given where we are. Do you have a question about Afghanistan?
QUESTION: Oh, and also on Afghanistan, I would also like to ask what your view is of Russia’s involvement in Afghanistan. Do you believe that it is supplying arms to the Taliban? But also wonder if you’d be generous enough to answer the North Korea question as well.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah. So let me talk about regional actors here in Afghanistan more broadly even than Russia. We are – we have seen good signs from lots of regional actors, China and others, who – Uzbekistan – who are stepping forward. We’ve also seen it from our NATO allies and partners. We’ve had 29 of 39 of those allies step up with increased contributions of resources since President Trump announced his new South Asia strategy.
We believe that there are many actors who are coming together to try and achieve what it is President Ghani has so elegantly discussed today. We truly – we’re optimistic that the region, the world are all tired of what’s taking place here in the same way the vast majority of the Afghan people no longer wish to see violence and war. And we’re very, very hopeful that over the coming periods, we can begin to see true progress, true reductions in violence, sound reforms of the Afghan Government that result from the Afghan people’s voice being heard in the upcoming elections. If we can begin to move down that path, we will have made a historic pivot, a historic change, transformational work here in Afghanistan which will give the Afghan people back their country in a way that is important and, frankly, what I’m convinced most of the Afghan people want.
Let me close – I’ll give you one quick answer with respect to North Korea. We still have a long ways to go, but the commitment that the North Koreans made – frankly, that Chairman Kim personally made to President Trump – remains, has been reinforced. I saw some of the statements came out. They were mixed. You haven’t reported on the mixed statements, but maybe you will now. The statements that were put out, Chairman Kim’s statement following our discussions, continued to express his desire to complete the denuclearization to which he is so committed.
MS NAUERT: John, thank you. John, thank you.
MR CHAKHANSURI: The press briefing is concluded. Thank you, everyone, for coming out today.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you.