Trump Gives Mattis Authority To Set US Troop Strength In Afghanistan

Aaron Brown
June 16, 2017

With the new authority, Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis could authorise deployment of additional troops to Afghanistan.

The decision to fix troop levels has been by welcomed by Afghanistan as it stated that it firms the commitment towards between the two nations.

"Thanks to the vigilance and skill of the USA military and our many allies and partners, horrors on the scale of September 11, 2001, have not been repeated on our shores", Mattis said in a written statement released this afternoon. "That meant in the mountain country, these troops were often at a disadvantage, so we change the way we fight, we change the regional construct and we change our approach to the way we deal with this [Afghan] government", Mattis said.

Mattis says he'll have the new strategy to share with lawmakers by mid-July to turn around the war.

Mattis said at a previous hearing the decision on US troop numbers in Afghanistan is due in mid-July.

Civilian casualties in 2016 hit a record high level, according to data from the U.N. Assistance Mission to Afghanistan, which began tracking the deaths in 2009.

McCain said the Trump administration had yet to offer a new strategy different that that of his predecessor Barack Obama.

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He said any decision to increase the number of troops would come with a change in strategy that alters the way Afghan forces are supported by global airpower, how the US interacts with the Afghan government and would take a greater regional approach to the conflict, rather than looking at Afghanistan in isolation.

Mr Mattis said the "delegation of authority" letting the Pentagon set troop levels in Afghanistan would give the military greater agility in conducting operations. 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.

But he told Congress on Tuesday he is working on a revised strategy for the conflict there. "We can not allow Afghanistan to once again become a launching point for attacks on our homeland or on our allies".

U.S. troops in Afghanistan number about 8,400 today, and there are another 5,000 from North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies, who mainly serve in a training and advisory capacity. For nearly 16 years now, the U.S. has been heavily involved in counter-insurgency measures and attempts to install a stable Western-backed government.

The decision is similar to one announced in April that applied to US troop levels in Iraq and Syria. However, there is also talk that more authority on the ground could be given to these troops who are in a train, advise and assist capacity.

"Airpower is a panacea, and we're going to continue stressing on it and helping the Afghan's build it when they're fighting an enemy with zero air assets" Dempsey said.

McCain, however, listed the names of the three 101st Airborne Division soldiers who were killed Saturday and said, "Let's not ask these families to sacrifice any further without a strategy which we can then take and implement and help you".

Other reports by Free-Prsite

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