NATO Afghan mission targets Al-Qaeda, not IS – Pentagon

WASHINGTON, May 5 (KUNA) — The unilateral counterterrorism mission undertaken by the US as part of the NATO-led Operation Resolute Support in Afghanistan does not target fighters or facilities belonging to the so-called Islamic State (IS) group, despite their presence inside the country, the Pentagon clarified Thursday.
Its aim is to carry out airstrikes against members of Al-Qaeda only, Brigadier General Charles Cleveland, the mission’s spokesperson, told reporters at a briefing.
“The United States, under this US unilateral mission, does target Daesh,” he said, using the Arabic acronym for IS.
Between 1,000 and 3,000 IS fighters are inside Afghanistan, he noted.
“It can be a little bit nuanced and confusing. But the Resolute Support mission is a NATO mission and the NATO mission is to train, advice, and assist Afghan forces.” He said.
“We have long, for quite a while of course, had the mission to disrupt, dismantle and defeat Al-Qaeda and prevent their use of Afghanistan as a launching pad from which to launch attack against the West,” Cleveland said.
The core mission of Operation Resolute Support is to help the Afghans build a sustainable security capability. And we want it to be enduring,” he explained.
“Ultimately, what we want the Afghans to be able to do is be able to defend their own territory, number one. And then number two, be able to address these transnational and trans-regional terrorist organizations that oftentimes will base in this region and then try and strike the West,” he added.
“On the training side, we actually do have NATO and NATO partner nation people out physically doing hands-on training. That’s everything from how to fire weapons, how to fly an aircraft, how to call for fire – those types of things. The training does occur here in Afghanistan, but it also occurs in Europe. And then in some instances, it occurs back in the United States,” Cleveland said.
The advising occurs on a strategic and tactical level, and the assistance aspect really does come in the form of either financial support or material support such as aircraft and small arms capability, he said.
“What we’ve been able to do is embed advisers into both the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Defense here in Kabul. And so what we’re trying to assist them with is the institutional work to really work on human resources and operations and intelligence and logistics, and to really set up the institution, because it’s our view that if you can’t train, equip, and employ your force, then you are not going to have a security institution,” the general explained.
Finally at the corps level, Resolute Support helps them maneuver large formations, and then also be able to look out across multiple provinces, identify threats, commit parts of their force to address that threat, be able to commit and employ low-density assets and capabilities, Cleveland said.
Resolute Support came into effect on January 1, 2015 as a follow-on to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). It is made up of 12,000 soldiers from NATO nations. (end)

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