Tillerson presses for reforms in Afghanistan

Rex Tillerson and Ashraf Ghani seated and talking (© AP Images)
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan. (© AP Images)

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited Afghanistan on October 23 to meet with President Ashraf Ghani and underscore President Trump’s new approach to fighting terrorism and bringing peace and stability to the region.

“I thought it was very important to stop here in Afghanistan … as part of the recently announced South Asia policy and strategy that President Trump has put forth,” said Tillerson, who made a quick trip to Afghanistan following a visit to Qatar.

The Afghan president “has assured me of his firm commitment to continuing reforms here in Afghanistan as well as his new anti-corruption strategy and policies that [are] going to underpin much of the effort here,” the top U.S. diplomat said.

They also discussed preparations for next year’s parliamentary elections. Tillerson said it is “very important that those elections go forward.”

Afghanistan has already made strides in fostering “a much more vibrant population, a much more vibrant government, education system, a larger economy,” Tillerson told reporters.

Close-up of Rex Tillerson with John Nicholson behind him (© AP Images)
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with General John Nicholson, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. (© AP Images)

“We have a lot of hard work and challenges ahead of us, but the United States and our partners here in Afghanistan are committed to seeing this through,” said Tillerson, who will also travel to Islamabad to meet with Pakistani leaders.

“We have made some very specific requests of Pakistan in order for them to take action to undermine the support that the Taliban receives and the other terrorist organizations receive in Pakistan,” he told reporters.

Trump announced August 21 he was giving the U.S. commanders more authority in how to wage the war against Taliban “terrorists and criminal networks that sow violence and chaos through Afghanistan.”

“We must stop the resurgence of safe havens that enable terrorists to threaten America,” the president said, while emphasizing “our commitment is not unlimited and our support is not a blank check. The government of Afghanistan must carry their share of the military, political and economic burden.”

Tillerson’s visit to Afghanistan is part of a multination trip. He flew to Baghdad after visiting Afghanistan. Over the weekend he met with Saudi and Qatari leaders to discuss issues in the Gulf. He will also visit New Delhi to confer with senior Indian officials. Tillerson spoke last week about the importance of the growing U.S. strategic and economic partnership with India.

He also will stop in Geneva for discussions with United Nations officials on global humanitarian issues.