Published: Thu, June 15, 2017
Global | By Maureen Mccoy

Pentagon sees more "agility" with new power on Afghan troops levels

Pentagon sees more

Defence Secretary Jim Mattis vowed on Wednesday (Jun 14) that the Trump administration would not repeat the "mistakes of the past" in dealing with Afghanistan, after the president gave him the power to set troop levels in the war-torn country.

The "Taliban had a good year last year, they are trying to have a good one this year", Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee at a hearing about the Pentagon's budget.

Trump came into office saying he meant to give his generals more leeway, and Mattis has said the new authority will help him improve management of the war.

Media reports have said Mattis is considering asking for 3,000 to 5,000 additional United States and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation troops, but the defense chief has said little on the matter.

Reuters reported in late April that the administration of US President Donald Trump was carrying out a review of Afghanistan, and conversations were revolving around sending between 3,000 and 5,000 US and coalition troops there.

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.

USA media have reported that the Defense Secretary will recommend sending another 3,000-5,000 US troops to break what he has called a "stalemate" between US -backed government forces and the Taliban.

"I don't have anything I can comment on that right now".

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The move could lead to a deployment of thousands more troops as commanders decide the way forward in the now 15-year-old war.

Mattis made the announcement a day after being verbally hammered by Sen.

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.

Hours later, Mattis issued a written statement that provided no further details on Trump's decision but said counterterrorism efforts in Afghanistan are "making progress in degrading" groups like al-Qaida and the Islamic State.

Mattis said that adding more forces in Afghanistan would "restore the high ground" by lending more USA assets to help the Afghans with air support and in turn would buy them more time to mature their forces and reduce casualties.

"We're now six months into this administration, we still haven't got a strategy for Afghanistan", McCain said, noting it was hard to get behind an Afghanistan budget request without knowing what the plan is. 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.

"We know what the strategy was for the last eight years: Don't lose".

Mattis later described winning in Afghanistan as forming a central government that, with worldwide help, "will be able to handle the violence". "And we will correct this as soon as possible".

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