New US commander touts 'offensive mindset' against Taliban

New US commander touts 'offensive mindset' against Taliban
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The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan who took over last month says he has installed a more aggressive approach in helping the Afghan military defeat the Taliban.

“We are more in an offensive mindset and don't wait for the Taliban to come and hit [us],” Gen. Scott Miller told NBC News from Resolute Support headquarters in Kabul.

“So that was an adjustment that we made early on. We needed to because of the amount of casualties that were being absorbed.”

Miller – who replaced Gen. John Nicholson on Sept. 2 to lead the war in Afghanistan, which is now entering its 18th year – acknowledged that a political solution will be required to end the war.


“This is not going to be won militarily, this is going to a political solution,” Miller said.

“My assessment is the Taliban also realizes they cannot win militarily. So if you realize you can't win militarily at some point, fighting is just, people start asking why. So you do not necessarily wait us out, but I think now is the time to start working through the political piece of this conflict.”

In the eight weeks he has led the war, a number of Taliban fighters have laid down their arms to talk about a possible settlement, which Miller said he didn’t expect.

“I don't want to be Pollyannaish about this,” Miller said of the issue of possible reconciliation with the Taliban.  “I see paths, some of them are risk filled. So rather than optimistic, I say pragmatic.”

Miller took over at a time when the Afghan Security Forces’ number of killed and wounded was hitting near record figures, with 1,000 casualties in August and September, according to the Pentagon.

And in 2018, 19 high-profile suicide attacks targeted Kabul.

Miller himself was reportedly the target of an attack earlier this month that left two Afghan officials dead and injured a U.S. service member and a civilian.

A gunman wearing an Afghan army uniform had opened fire on participants meeting with Miller at Kandahar palace.

Miller said he doesn't believe he was a target.

“I was not on the gun line. If it had gone on would the rest of us become part of the gunline? That's possible,” he told NBC News.

To put forces back on the offensive, Miller said he has gotten rid of layers of approval for soldiers advising the Afghans.

Troops now have more authority to make decisions on the battlefield and move people and equipment to areas where they can best advise the Afghan military and police against the Taliban, he said.

“None of this is risk free,” Miller said. “They take casualties, but the casualties are much less when they're moving against the Taliban.”

Miller also said he does not feel pressure from Washington to provide results, according to NBC.

“I naturally feel compelled to try to set the conditions for a political outcome. So, pressure from that standpoint, yes. I don't want everyone to think this is forever.”