Trump to Give Pentagon Power to Increase Troop Levels in Afghanistan

Marsha Scott
June 16, 2017

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said now he can directly adjust U.S. troop numbers in Afghanistan.

Mattis noted Obama's decision to declare the combat operation over at the end 2014, and then to withdrawing US combat firepower from the Afghan military came at a time when it needed it the most, the Examiner reported.

Reuters reported on Tuesday that U.S President Donald Trump had given Mattis the authority to set troop levels in Afghanistan, opening the door for future troop increases.

Graham said that he previously advised Trump to either remove USA forces from Afghanistan or give the generals in the theater the tools they need.

What Mattis didn't say is why McCain has yet to see Trump's Afghanistan strategy: because Trump hasn't agreed to the one his top advisers prepared more than two months ago.

During Wednesday's hearing, Mattis said the Pentagon is working on a broader Afghanistan strategy that will be ready to send to the president in the next few weeks.

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"I've never been more proud of President Trump and his team than I am right now".

"The Taliban had a good year last year, and they're trying to have a good one this year", Mattis said Tuesday of the anti-Afghan government militant group that has been fighting US -led troops since 2001.

In a meeting of the National Security Council, according to two administration officials, Trump declined to make a decision to lift the so-called force management levels, the caps on USA forces in Afghanistan set by Obama.

In February, Gen. John Nicholson, the top US commander in Afghanistan, described the military situation in Afghanistan as "a stalemate" and acknowledged the need for additional troops to help train, advise and assist the Afghan military.

The US now has some 8,400 troops in Afghanistan. "It makes it hard for us to support you when we don't have a strategy". In some instances, the military would call in private contractors or temporary forces to avoid exceeding Obama-imposed troop limits. The decision, however, was ultimately controversial because with the announced surge, Obama also gave a timeline for when USA forces would begin withdrawing from the country.

The Pentagon had considered a request for roughly 3,000 more troops, mainly for training and advising. That decision, however, has been stalled by the broader administration review of Afghan policy and a push for North Atlantic Treaty Organisation to contribute more troops. A former U.S. 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. The increased fight has led to a recent string of American deaths. "They're not fighting as well as they could if we gave them the kind of air support, more intel support that we could give them", he asserted.

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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