BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson made a secret two-hour go to to the principle American air base in Afghanistan on Monday, arriving in a navy transport airplane to satisfy high Afghan officers inside an enormous bunker.
Practically 20,000 navy personnel, contractors and others reside and work on the base, Bagram Airfield north of Kabul. Many had been on excessive alert because the secretary arrived, fearing the type of rocket or mortar assault that has change into widespread.
That high American officers should sneak into this nation after 16 years of conflict, 1000’s of lives misplaced and a whole lot of billions of spent was testimony to the stalemate confronting the USA due to a cussed and efficient Taliban foe that’s more and more ascendant.
Mr. Tillerson wouldn’t even danger the brief journey to Kabul to go to the closely fortified United States Embassy or Afghan presidential palace, as his predecessors have achieved. The change displays the more and more unsure safety state of affairs in Kabul and the truth that the USA’ presence is now surrounded by huge Taliban-controlled areas.
President Barack Obama paid a secret go to to the air base in Might 2014. Afghanistan’s president on the time, Hamid Karzai, declined an invite from American officers to satisfy Mr. Obama on the base, saying that doing so can be a breach of protocol, although the 2 leaders spoke by phone.
Mr. Tillerson’s go to was his first to Afghanistan as secretary of state, and like practically each different high American official to go to over the earlier 20 years, he stated the nation’s predicament was not practically as dire as his personal safety precautions advised.
“However I feel in the event you contemplate the present state of affairs in Afghanistan, and we had been speaking about this a couple of minutes in the past, and also you look just a few years prior to now to what the circumstances had been, Afghanistan has come fairly a distance already by way of creating a way more vibrant inhabitants, a way more vibrant authorities, training system, a bigger economic system,” he stated in a small windowless convention room throughout a hurried eight-minute information convention. “So there are alternatives to strengthen the foundations of a affluent Afghanistan society.”
Mr. Tillerson noticed none of that hoped-for blooming.
When the large maw of the C-17 plane that he flew into Bagram opened, he was greeted by Gen. John Nicholson, the commander of United States operations in Afghanistan, together with a large contingent of troopers and safety guards.
They piled right into a motorcade and drove the couple of minutes to the bottom’s bunkerlike headquarters, passing hangers constructed by Russia, one other of the overseas forces to be humbled in Afghanistan. Enormous concrete blast partitions lined a lot of the route. Helicopters patrolled the perimeter, and two safety blimps outfitted with long-range cameras hovered.
On the headquarters constructing, a former jail, Mr. Tillerson and Normal Nicholson met in one other windowless room with Afghanistan’s president, Ashraf Ghani; its chief govt, Abdullah Abdullah; and its nationwide safety adviser, Hanif Atmar, as an armored truck and Humvee guarded outdoors.
After the boys sat down, Mr. Tillerson stated: “We had a fairly clean flight.”
Mr. Ghani replied, “We organized the climate for you.”
Mr. Tillerson introduced with him a six-person press contingent that was taken apart late the evening earlier than and sworn to secrecy concerning the journey till his airplane returned to Doha, Qatar, the place the journey had originated.
After eight months of inner discussions, President Trump in August introduced his coverage for Afghanistan, an effort to stop an apparent loss within the nation. Commanders shall be allowed to request troops as wanted, and the administration emphasised that it will more and more depend on regional companions like India to enhance stability.
Mr. Trump additionally promised to strain Pakistan, which United States officers have lengthy accused of enjoying a double recreation in Afghanistan — publicly supporting the USA mission right here whereas secretly bankrolling and giving shelter to the Taliban and different rebel teams.
However the large air base right here demonstrates why the administration can not get too powerful with Pakistan, since practically all the provides for this fortress metropolis are transported by air or land by way of Pakistani territory. Troopers can order provides and presents from Amazon, which delivers day by day to the bottom.
Mr. Tillerson will go to Islamabad on Tuesday for his first talks with Pakistani leaders since he delivered a speech final week through which he referred to as for improved ties with India, Pakistan’s rival. Within the speech, Pakistan bought solely a quick, none-too-complimentary point out.
On Monday, Mr. Tillerson stated that the USA was more and more involved concerning the stability of Pakistan, which has a big nuclear arsenal.
“Pakistan must, I feel, take a cleareyed view of the state of affairs that they’re confronted with by way of the variety of terrorist organizations that discover secure haven inside Pakistan,” he stated.
Mr. Tillerson stated the USA would stay in Afghanistan till peace was restored. Or maybe till issues get a lot worse.
“The president has made it clear that we’re right here to remain till we will safe a technique of reconciliation and peace,” he stated. “It’s not an infinite dedication. He’s additionally made it clear it’s not a blank-check dedication. It’s a conditions-based dedication.”