Trump has Delegated Decisions on Afghan Troop Levels: Mattis

Trump has Delegated Decisions on Afghan Troop Levels: Mattis

Mattis' comments come on the same day he told lawmakers that President Donald Trump has given him the power to determine the number of troops in Afghanistan.

"The White House has done the same that it did with Iraq and Syria, which is to grant the secretary of defense the authority to set troop levels", the official said, referring to recent adjustments Trump has approved for the fight against the Islamic State group in those two countries.

During Wednesday's hearing, Mattis laid some of the blame for the current situation in Afghanistan on Obama's timeline, noting that pulling forces at a predetermined pace only emboldened the Taliban and strained a government and military that wasn't ready to fight without US and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation support.

In his testimony, Mattis said US troop levels won't necessarily change immediately.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official told AFP that Pentagon chief Jim Mattis can now directly adjust troop numbers, though the official would not confirm whether a new "force management level" - currently at around 8,400 - had been finalized. He said he hasn't made any decisions about sending more troops into the 16-year running war.

"We are not winning in Afghanistan right now", Mattis said in his congressional testimony Tuesday. One idea is to provide just enough American presence to help the Afghan government and national security forces to keep the Taliban at bay. That's still in the works - even though troop levels and an overall strategy were supposed to be finalized before the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation meeting in Brussels, Belgium, last month.

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United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, during his Kabul visit yesterday, said there is no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan that is forcing record numbers of people from their homes. Jon Tester (D-N.M.), Mattis said that peace in Afghanistan is possible but will require the worldwide community to "hold with it and when we reduce, we reduce based on conditions on the ground, not an arbitrary timeline".

When Obama announced that he was sending 30,000 troops to Afghanistan during a speech at West Point in 2009, his decision making process had included reviews from both Gen. Stanley McChrystal, then the head of USA forces in Afghanistan, and the White House.

Roughly 8,400 US troops are already serving in Afghanistan.

"This decision is part of a broader strategy we are developing that addresses our role in Afghanistan and beyond".

Mattis later described winning in Afghanistan as forming a central government that, with worldwide help, "will be able to handle the violence". That decision, however, has been stalled by the administration's Afghan review and a push for North Atlantic Treaty Organisation to contribute more troops. Additional conversations must be had if the Pentagon decides it needs a few thousand more additional troops in coming years, he said.

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