Trump authorises USA military to set troop levels in Afghanistan

Nick Mcbride
June 14, 2017

Mattis said he would present the new policy to President Donald Trump "very soon" and it would include options to enhance USA military presence in Afghanistan.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said no immediate decision had been made about the troop levels, which are now set at about 8,400.

Mattis can also end the current cap on Afghanistan troop levels.

McCain reminded everyone at the hearing that "it's now mid-June and the Congress hasn't passed a fiscal 2018 budget, something that should embarrass every member of the Senate and House". John McCain, R-Ariz., expressed frustration that the strategy is still unfinished, after promises from President Trump that a new play for America's longest war would be finished in the first few months of the new administration.

A former USA official said such a decision might allow the White House to argue that it was not micromanaging as much as the administration of former President Barack Obama was sometimes accused of doing.

Speaking before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, Mattis said a new plan would be ready by mid-July. "We are putting it together now and there are actions being taken to make certain we don't pay a price for the delay".

Mattis acknowledged the need for urgency. He did not say what those steps are.

'In this moment, we are not winning the conflict in Afghanistan. Or as McCain described the situation, which Mattis subsequently confirmed, "We're not winning in Afghanistan".

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The increased violence in Afghanistan also includes a huge blast in the capital of Kabul last month that claimed the lives of more than 150 people. "Despite the tremendous efforts of this committee, Congress as a whole has met the present challenge with lassitude, not leadership".

The broader regional USA strategy for Afghanistan remains unclear.

On Saturday, three U.S. soldiers were killed in an apparent insider attack in Afghanistan's restive east where U.S. Special Operations forces are battling the Islamic State's Afghan affiliate. And two U.S. Army Rangers died in a April 27 raid on an IS compound in eastern Afghanistan. Dillon C. Baldridge, 22, were killed when one of the Afghans who they were advising opened fire on them.

A third force acting on DoD are adversaries contesting US military capabilities.

The head of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, Gen. John Nicholson, and the head of the U.S. military command overseeing the Middle East, Gen. Joseph Votel, have endorsed the deployment of "several thousand" additional North Atlantic Treaty Organisation troops to train Afghan security forces and break the conflict from a state of "stalemate".

Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, added that he hoped Afghan troop casualties would be lower a year from now.

"We need bipartisan support for this budget request", the secretary told the committee.

"Four years later, I returned to the Department [of Defense], and I have been shocked by what I've seen about our readiness to fight... It's hard when we have no strategy to pursue". "It's going to be an era of frequent skirmishing and it's going to require a change in our approach from the last several years if we're to get it to that position".

Other reports by VgToday

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