Taliban 'surging' in Afghanistan, US defence chief warns

Nick Mcbride
June 14, 2017

"I understand it's my responsibility, we are not winning in Afghanistan right now and we will correct this as soon as possible".

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford (L) and Defense Secretary James Mattis prepare to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday.

Mattis said the Taliban were "surging" and that the extremist group's progress had to be curtailed.

The top commander there has told lawmakers he could use several thousand more US troops to end the stalemate in the country.

"I believe by mid-July we will be able to brief you in detail", Mattis said, "We are putting it together now and there are actions being taken to make certain we don't pay a price for the delay". "We just lost three fearless Americans, when can we expect the Congress of the United States to get a strategy for Afghanistan that is a departure from the last eight years, which is "don't lose"?" But he said he recognizes the urgency of the matter and that McCain's criticism is fair.

There are now about 8,400 U.S. troops devoted to Operation Resolute Support in Afghanistan, which encompasses both USA counter terrorism forces to fight ISIS and the Taliban as well as the effort to train, advise and assist Afghan forces in a separate effort.

In February, General John Nicholson, who commands North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces in Afghanistan, warned that he needs "a few thousand" more troops to reverse what he called a stalemate.

Earlier this year, the Pentagon was considering a request for roughly 3,000 more troops, mainly for training and advising.

USA military commanders, who saw fragile security gains eroded under Obama-era troop draw-downs, have been pushing for a new strategy that could see thousands of additional soldiers deploy to Afghanistan to help train and advise beleaguered Afghan partners.

"But at this point, he has chosen to be competitive, a strategic competitor with us and we will have to deal with that as we see it", he said.

Two US Army Rangers died in a April 27 raid on an IS compound in eastern Afghanistan.

Asked what he hoped the situation in Afghanistan would look like a year from now, Mattis said violence would be down, government corruption would be reduced and the Taliban would be "rolled back", with less freedom of movement on the battlefield.

Their deaths came just days after a US Army special forces soldier was also killed in the region.

Alongside Mattis, Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford, the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated to the panel that although a war with North Korea would have casualties "unlike anything we've seen", the United States and its allies would be assured of victory.

The war in Afghanistan began in October 2001.

Additionally, Mattis and Dunford said one of their priorities in Afghanistan is to reduce Afghan casualties by increasing USA fire and air support for the fledgling Afghan ground forces.

"It has blocked new programs, prevented service growth, stalled industry initiative and placed troops at greater risk", Mattis said as he urged the panel to do away with the Budget Control Act of 2011.

Other reports by VgToday

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