Trump lets Pentagon set Afghanistan troop levels

Posted June 15, 2017

President Donald Trump has given the Pentagon new authority to decide the troop levels in Afghanistan, a U.S. official has said. It's a break from past practice that Mattis said will enable him to more effectively manage the war effort.

The remarks were a blunt reminder of the gloom underscoring U.S. military assessments of the war between the US-backed Afghan government and the Islamist militant group, classified by United States commanders as a "stalemate" despite nearly 16 years of fighting.

Throughout his administration and that of his predecessor, Obama's White House closely controlled USA troop levels in Afghanistan. "I would refer you to Secretary Mattis at this point", White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters.

Despite Mattis telling the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that "we are not winning right now in Afghanistan", beating the Taliban is an unrealistic goal, Barno said.

Mattis said the decision would come in consultation with other United States government agencies in a more comprehensive approach to the conflict.

"We can not allow Afghanistan to once again become a launching point for attacks on our homeland or on our allies", Mattis said.

While he is expected to add at least a few thousand troops soon, Mattis said he will act after further consultation with other government agencies and in line with Trump's "strategic direction and his foreign policy". He said the Taleban was surging throughout the country, and he planned to present lawmakers with a strategy for the US' longest running war by mid-July. "I think right now what we have to look at is what kind of capabilities do we bring to them because the Afghans have proven they will fight".

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The Afghanistan war has been dragging on since October 2001 and the US-led coalition ended their combat mission against the Taliban in 2014 but they are increasingly involved in backing up Afghan forces on the battlefield.

Mattis said that it is best for the USA and the "international community that our economy depends" to see terror groups beaten back and the Afghan government arrive at a position of strength. Throughout his tenure, Obama's White House reviewed even small changes in US troop levels in Afghanistan. "Which would be a waste of time, lives and money", said Dempsey, who served two tours in Afghanistan.

As for strategy, Mattis said the administration's war approach is being developed in a broader context that includes Afghanistan's neighbors, Iran and Pakistan, as well as India.

That decision, however, had been stalled by a broader review by the Trump administration of Afghan policy and a push for North Atlantic Treaty Organisation to contribute more troops.

Currently, there are about 8,400 US troops and another 5,000 forces of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) on the ground in Afghanistan to train and assist the Afghan forces against the Taliban, and conduct counter-terrorism missions.

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