Mattis: Trump has delegated decisions on Afghan troop levels

Lawmakers demand new strategy for 16-year war in Afghanistan if Pentagon wants to see more troops deployed

The decision is similar to one announced in April that applied to USA troop levels in Iraq and Syria, and came as Mattis warned Congress the US-backed Afghan forces were not beating the Taliban despite more than 15 years of war.

Christine Wormuth, the Pentagon's top policy official from 2014 to 2016, expressed confidence in Mattis' judgment and said she wouldn't be bothered by an arrangement in which the president gave his defense secretary the authority to adjust troop levels within a broad range set by the White House.

This is a change from the Bush and Obama administrations, where the White House approved troop levels, largely because tens of thousands of personnel were involved.

There are now about 8,400 USA troops devoted to Operation Resolute Support in Afghanistan, which encompasses both United States 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.

U.S. National Intelligence Director Dan Coats also warned last month that the security situation in Afghanistan would most likely deteriorate in the future even if the United States and its allies offer more military aid.

Army Gen. John Nicholson, the top USA commander in Afghanistan, has told Congress he could use an infusion of US and allied troops to bolster support for the Afghan army.

"We're not winning in Afghanistan right now", Mattis said.




USA generals in charge of forces in the region in recent months recommended adding as many as 5,000 troops to about 8,400 already there. "We will present this to the president in the coming weeks", he added. If a few more thousand troops - joining the 9,000 already in country (plus some 25,000 military contractors, 9,522 of whom are US citizens) - are going to make a meaningful and enduring difference, Americans deserve to hear how this will plausibly happen.

The secretary spoke about this delegation in his opening statement during a budget hearing of the Senate Appropriations Committee's defense subcommittee this morning.

Mattis was sharply criticized on Tuesday by Sen.

Mattis said his new strategy, which will be finished in the coming weeks, will restore the "high ground" by restoring North Atlantic Treaty Organisation air forces to a position of dominance, the Examiner reported.

Those are not clear objectives but amorphous aspirations. Yet he has vowed to somehow do things differently, without offering any indication precisely what that would consist of, besides an indefinite presence of USA forces. "You will never find it in a military dictionary". There has been nothing like this in the 70 years since the defense secretary position was established.

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

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