To the people and government of Afghanistan, I express my best wishes for Nawroz 1397, as well as my thanks for your continued hospitality to the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission and US Forces in Afghanistan.
Thirty-nine nations are committed to helping Afghanistan to secure peace. The results of this enduring relationship are being seen in the air and on the ground where Afghan forces are now on the offensive every day to defeat the enemies of peace and progress.
The war will only end with a political solution, reconciliation between the legitimate government and its enemies. President Ghani has now made a generous offer to the Taliban to negotiate. There has not been such a hopeful start to the New Year for a long time in Afghanistan.
Your Commando force, so effective both on the battlefield and in protecting the cities of Afghanistan, is to double in size. Your Air Force will soon triple in size and is now carrying out more strikes than the U.S. Air Force in Afghanistan.
The international coalition is behind these forces all the way – training and advising to ensure that Afghanistan has professional and capable security forces. But military pressure alone will not be sufficient to force a negotiation. There also needs to be social and political pressure, and diplomatic pressure to prevent support by external actors.
So while Afghan forces go on the offensive and stay on the offensive, reforms and progress to improve conditions for the Afghan people are continuing. Life for those who choose not to reconcile is going to get worse. I urge those who are fighting against the Afghan people to actively consider the words of President Ghani, and be a positive force in providing a better future for the Afghan people.
There is still much work to be done, but let me assure you that we stand together with you for a more peaceful, prosperous, safe and secure Afghanistan. We remember the service and sacrifice of the Afghan people and your security forces. We are with you and we will stay with you until the job is done.
We all hope this New Year brings happiness, prosperity, and enduring peace to you, your children and your respected families. Once again, all of us in the NATO Resolute Support Mission wish you a happy and enjoyable holiday.
General John Nicholson is the commander of the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission and US Forces-Afghanistan