24 June, 2017
In 2001, the United States invaded Afghanistan. Since that time, the U.S. military has lost lives and spent large amounts of money in an attempt to stop armed groups.
The battles continue.
ISIS and Al-Qaida
Dana White is the chief spokesperson for the U.S. Defense Department. She spoke to VOA for her first filmed interview.
White said the Islamic State problem in Afghanistan is "not getting better."
"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 that the Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, is still learning about what U.S. army leaders need on the ground.
Some officials have said that the military will likely increase the number of forces for operations against al-Qaida and Islamic State in Afghanistan. White said that Mattis will speak to NATO counterparts in Brussels next week before making a final decision on a plan.
The U.S. military says three American service members were killed in April during operations against Islamic State militants.
On Thursday, a car bomb explosion in Afghanistan's Helmand province killed at least 34 people and wounded more than 60 others.
The suicide attack came ahead of Sunday's Eid festival, which marks the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
Witnesses said soldiers and government employees were waiting outside of a bank to collect their salaries when the bomber struck.
The Taliban claimed responsibility. Mohammad Yousaf Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesperson, said the bombing happened on a day when the bank does not permit civilians to enter.
Omar Zwak, a local government spokesperson, said that civilian and military personnel were among the victims.
This attack comes one day after other Taliban activity.
On Wednesday, the Taliban released a new video showing two kidnapped professors.
American Kevin King and Australian Timothy Weeks were teachers with the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul. They were kidnapped last August.
"My captors treat me well. They treat me and my colleague Tim Weeks as their guests; but, every prisoner's final wish is to get freedom from the prison," said King.
The video's release comes at a time when Afghan officials are reportedly planning to execute a group of Taliban prisoners. They were found guilty of terrorism.
The Taliban wants these prisoners freed in return for letting the two hostages go.
The U.S. State Department declined to give comments on the video.
U.S. General John Nicholson is the top commander in Afghanistan. In February, he told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he needs "a few thousand" more troops to complete his mission of supporting Afghan forces.
Earlier this month, President Donald Trump gave Secretary Mattis permission to increase the military presence in Afghanistan. The defense secretary has promised lawmakers a new strategy by "mid July."
The extent to which a new military troop increase will take place – and if it will have success against Afghanistan's insurgent groups – remains unclear.
I'm John Russell.
Carla Babb and Ayaz Gul wrote versions of this story for VOA News. John Russell adapted them for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.
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Words in This Story
focused – adj. giving attention and effort to a specific task or goal
counterpart – n. someone or something that has the same job or purpose as another
salary – n. an amount of money that an employee is paid each year, usually divided into equal amounts and paid once every two weeks or once every month.
colleague – n. a person who works with you: a fellow worker
decline – v. to say that you will not or cannot do something
strategy – n. a careful plan or method for achieving a particular goal usually over a long period of time
insurgent – n. a person who fights against an established government or authority