WASHINGTON – Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said Wednesday that he now can set US troop levels in Afghanistan after the receipt of the authority from President Donald Trump. It is a break from past practice that Mattis said would enable him to more effectively manage the war.
In his testimony before the Senate panel, Mattis said the decision does not mean that the AMERICAN troop levels changes immediately. While he is expected to add at least a couple of thousand troops quickly, Mattis said he decided after further consultations with other authorities and in line with the Trumpet “strategic direction and its foreign policy.”
The US now has about 8,400 troops in Afghanistan, carrying out two main tasks: the hunt and the attacks of violent extremists, including Islamic State-affiliated group in eastern Afghanistan and the support of the Afghan forces against the Taliban.
Trump has said little about its intentions in Afghanistan. The administration has been reviewing the options, and Mattis told the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee that the mission remains the same: to train, advise and assist Afghan forces so they can defend their own country, and “terrorists will find no haven”.
Later, he said he could imagine that the united states assist in the training of Afghan security forces “years from now,” even after the country is stabilized.
President Barack Obama ended the US combat role in Afghanistan in 2014. During his reign and that of his predecessor, Obama’s White House closely controlled U.S. troops levels in Afghanistan. Trump came into the office to say that he intended to his generals more space, and Mattis has said that the new authority will help him to a better management of the war. In April, the president gave Mattis authority to the U.S. troops levels in Iraq and Syria.
Mattis was sharp criticism on Tuesday of Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican who complained about the administration’s failure to decide on an Afghanistan strategy, says that it is “difficult” for the Congress to support the administration of the war efforts. Mattis said McCain, a strategy would be presented by the middle of July.
Mattis said in testimony Tuesday that the strategy is developed in a broader context in which the afghan neighbors, Iran and Pakistan, and India. All political stake in the outcome of the war. Mattis said that there is a role for the Ministry of foreign affairs in putting diplomatic and economic pressure on these countries.
Army Gen. John Nicholson, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, has told Congress he could use a mix of AMERICAN and allied forces to strengthen support for the Afghan army.
Earlier this year, the Pentagon was considering a request for about 3,000 more troops, mainly for training and advice. That decision, however, was stopped by the administration of the Afghan review and a push for NATO to contribute more troops.
Printed on the plan Tuesday, Mattis cited ongoing efforts to ensure NATO-participation so that the “not all on the backs of the American taxpayers.”
He added: “We are not winning in Afghanistan now. And we will as soon as possible.”
The Taliban resurgence is in combination with a growing threat of the Islamic State militants trying to take a foothold in the country. The increased conflict has led to a recent string of American deaths.