UH-60 Roll-out Ceremony Remarks by General Nicholson

U.S. Army Gen. John W. Nicholson, commander of the Resolute Support mission and U.S. Forces − Afghanistan, speaks during the official UH-60 Black Hawk arrival ceremony, Oct. 7, 2017, at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. Nicholson and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani performed a ceremonial ribbon cutting celebrating the newest addition to Afghanistan’s air force fleet while vowing continued commitment to the fight against the anti-government insurgency in Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alexander W. Riedel)
7 Oct 2017
Good Afternoon!

Your Excellency President Ghani, Ministers, Ambassadors, Deputy Ministers, Governors...respected elders...GEN Yaftali, MG Shoaib, commanders, general officers, senior non-commissioned officers, and leaders of Afghanistan...

But most of all, Soldiers and Airman of the Afghan Air Force!  It is a privilege to speak with you all today.  I want to welcome the Honorable Mr. Sopko, the Special Inspector General from the United States - thank you for joining us as well.

It is a very special day, indeed for the coalition and Afghan partners - and serves as an example of our resolve against terror.

We Must Win

The war against terror isn't just an Afghan or a regional, it's not just against ISIS, Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or Haqqani Network.  The war against terror is one that we fight on behalf of all humanity, against all terrorists.

It is the most important fight in the world today.  We must win, not only for the future of Afghanistan and the Afghan people, but for the entire world.

Indeed, the implications of this fight are global.  Losing in Afghanistan would result in more attacks in the homelands of this coalition, and more migrants flooding out of South Asia.

Neither of these outcomes are acceptable, but more importantly:  the Afghan people deserve a chance at peace.  They have sacrificed so much already...They deserve a better life for their children after four decades of war.

Afghanistan is not only fighting for its own future.  Afghanistan is fighting for humanity's future.  We are with you in this fight.  You have proven your bravery and your commitment.

We mourn with you for the loss of your comrades.  We pray for the families of the martyrs and for those wounded.  And for the innocent victims of this war, and we especially pray for the civilians who have paid such a high price.

We are with you.  We will stay with you.

To the sponsors of these terrorists:  I tell you are supporting a losing cause, a criminal cause...

The Taliban Cannot Win

The Taliban cannot win in the face of the renewed international will and support of the United States and NATO.

Look at how they have failed to take the provincial capitals this year, how Daesh is on the run, and how strongly the people reject tyranny and terror.

There are many reasons the Taliban cannot win:  they lack legitimacy in the eyes of the Afghan people...their losses are high and their morale is low.  But mainly, they cannot win because of the Afghan National Security Forces.  This Army is improving every day.  This fighting season, they have stabilized security in the north.  They are retaking districts in Helmand.  They are putting enormous pressure on the enemy in Farah and Uruzgan.  They have taken back Tora Bora.  They have defended Kabul and beaten back Daesh with special police.

The Afghan National Security Forces continue to expand their efforts here in Kandahar.  As we sit here now, they are retaking Ghorak district.  You have seen it.  We have seen it.  The entire world has seen it.

Most importantly, the Afghan National Security Forces have defeated the Taliban's "red" units - their best trained and equipped fighters - here in Kandahar, but also in Helmand, Kunduz, and Paktiya.

This year proves that President Ghani's Roadmap is working.

The Afghan Air Force

One of the most important reasons for this success is in front of you today:  the Afghan Air Force.

There are few air forces in the world are capable of fielding, piloting, and sustaining the aircraft that you see in front of you.  We add to these - as of this ceremony -  UH-60 BLACKHAWKS.

Few air forces could employ this number of aircraft in combat, much less an air force that is so young.  Think about that for a moment:  where else in the world do you have an air force that proves the bravery of their pilots every single day on the battlefield?  Where else can an air force integrate into a fighting army that employs effective airpower against the enemy?  That is incredible - there are maybe a handful of air forces that can do what the Afghan Air Force is doing, especially in this short amount of time.

Just this year, they've flown over 15,000 sorties.  These numbers will get steadily bigger:  the number of existing airframes will almost triple.  The pilot, tactical air controller, maintainer, air and ground staff have all proven successful.  This will only continue.  These [mansoobeen] are already in the fight - and there are more coming.  A tidal wave of Afghan airpower is on the horizon, and there is no stopping it.  The momentum has shifted, and it will stay that way.

External Support

Let the message be clear to our enemies, and to those who support them.  You cannot win.  The doubling of the Afghan Special Operations Forces, and the tripling of the Air Force, the increasing offensive power of the ANA all mean one thing - this is the beginning of the end for the Taliban.  They cannot win.

And those who support terror from outside of Afghanistan are clearly on the losing side.  They are wrong and they are very short sighted.  To them, I say:  it is never too late to stop supporting terror.

Beginning of the End for the Taliban

In August, President Ghani and I - along with MIN Bahramee - spoke at the Afghan Special Operations Corps activation ceremony.  And now, we stand here together and watch the first BLACKHAWK helicopters arrive for the Afghan Air Force.

The enemy's choice couldn't be any clearer:  stop fighting on behalf of the neighbors of Afghanistan.  Stop killing innocent civilians.  Stop bringing hardship and misery to the people of Afghanistan.  Lay down your arms.  Build a better future for this country and your families.

Or, you may die as Afghan airpower rains down on you from the sky.  When supported by the commandos - who remain unbeaten across the entire country - the Afghan Government has an unstoppable force.

I urge the enemy to consider this:  you cannot win.  Stop fighting now, and reconcile!

I thank the leaders here in Kandahar - especially - for hosting so many peace shuras.  You have started a trend that is spreading across the country.  And now is the time to reconcile!

Irreversible Momentum

The aircraft behind me are evidence of President Ghani's vision for the future of Afghan Security Forces.  You can see this with your own eyes, but I assure you there are many changes as well in the Afghan Security Forces.  They have proven themselves strong, brave, and true.  With the other pillars of the Roadmap now coming on line, it is truly the beginning of the end for the enemy.

As the commander of US Forces - Afghanistan and NATO Resolute Support I want to say again:  we are with you in this fight.  We are with you and we will stay with you.

In Closing

It is especially meaningful to hold this ceremony in Kandahar with the great leaders of Loya Kandahar.  To you, I say:  thank you for your advocacy for your people and your advocacy for peace.  May God's blessing be upon you, your citizens, and your work for peace in this country.

May God bless the entire Afghan Air Force, all of the men, women of the ANDSF - and their families; all of the people of Afghanistan.  Once again, we all mourn with you for the loss of your Soldiers, your police, and the innocent people who've suffered in four decades of war.

Their sacrifice is not in vain, we are moving to a peaceful end to this war, and we are with you in this journey to the very end.

Thank you.


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