The United States military has spilled its blood, spent immense amounts of cash and even dropped a munition called the “Mother of All Bombs” in an effort to root out Islamic State’s affiliate in Afghanistan.
But despite these efforts, the Islamic State-Khorasan problem in Afghanistan is “not getting better,” Chief Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White told VOA Wednesday in her first sit-down, on-camera interview since joining the Pentagon team.
“It’s not getting better in Afghanistan in terms of ISIS. We have a problem, and we have to defeat them and we have to be focused on that problem,” White said.
Watch: Pentagon Says Islamic State Problem ‘Not Getting Better’ in Afghanistan
U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis is still reviewing what his commanders need on the ground in terms of the types of military forces and the number of those forces, according to White.
She added that Mattis intends to speak with his NATO counterparts in Brussels next week before finalizing his military plan, which some officials have said will likely include additional forces for counterterror operations against al-Qaida and ISIS-K.
“It’s very important to remember that that is within the context of a much broader strategy, and also understanding what are our partners willing to do,” White said.
So far, the United States has shouldered responsibility for counterterrorism operations against ISIS-K and al-Qaida, while an international coalition has helped with a separate “advise and assist” mission to boost Afghan security force capabilities.
U.S. General John Nicholson, the top commander on the ground in Afghanistan, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in February that he needs “a few thousand” more troops to complete his mission of supporting Afghan forces.
He said at the time that he felt he had “adequate resources” for the counterterror mission, but that was before ISIS-K’s recent expansion into the caves of Tora Bora in Nangahar province and its increase in attacks in northern Afghanistan’s Jowzjan province.
President Donald Trump authorized Mattis to increase the military presence in Afghanistan earlier this month. The defense secretary has promised lawmakers a new strategy by mid-July.
Three American service members based in eastern Afghanistan were killed in April during operations targeting Islamic State militants, according to the Pentagon.