Trump has Delegated Decisions on Afghan Troop Levels: Mattis

Mattis: Trump has delegated decisions on Afghan troop levels

Mattis: Trump has delegated decisions on Afghan troop levels

Earlier, Mattis told lawmakers that he would present Trump with a new U.S. military strategy for Afghanistan by mid-July.

The official said the final decision to give Mattis the power to adjust troop levels actually came during his testimony, at which he said America still is "not winning" in Afghanistan.

Retired Army Lt. Gen. David Barno, who led the USA war effort in Afghanistan for 19 months beginning in fall 2003, said that he is not sure that the potential troop surge "is as big of a deal as it is being made out to be", and that it is unlikely that Mattis will be able to deploy an unlimited number of troops without any supervision by the White House.

He said the administration is working on a broad Afghanistan strategy, and that he intends to set U.S. troop levels consistent with Trump's "strategic direction and his foreign policy". President Trump still has not been presented with an Afghanistan strategy.

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've been given some carte blanche to - to draw up a strategy or a number that's out of step with the strategy", Mattis said.

Currently, there are about 8,400 USA troops and another 5,000 forces of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) on the ground in Afghanistan to train and assist the Afghan forces against the Taliban, and conduct counter-terrorism missions.

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"At one point, when we reduced our forces there, I believe in what was probably in hindsight a misguided application of our forces, we restricted them from using our air support, with some idea we would wean them off the need for it", Mattis said.

Prior to the White House decision, Mattis had warned that the Taliban was surging - having claimed a series of deadly attacks, including against Afghan military bases and positions - and that America still was "not winning" in the country almost 16 years after the US-led invasion there.

USA generals have recently recommended adding as many as 5,000 troops.

That decision, however, had been stalled by a broader review by the Trump administration of Afghan policy and a push for North Atlantic Treaty Organisation to contribute more troops.

Mattis later described winning in Afghanistan as forming a central government that, with global help, "will be able to handle the violence". Additional conversations must be had if the Pentagon decides it needs a few thousand more additional troops in coming years, he said.

"Does Mattis do something different, or fall into the trap of the last eight years of doing the same thing but doing it better?"

The new troops, if deployed, would "provide more fire and air support to the Afghans. We will correct this as soon as possible", he said.

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