February 26, 2018

President Gives Mattis Authority to Set US Troop Strength in Afghanistan

15 June 2017, 02:35 | Kara Nash

US Defense chief say he has power to set Afghan troop levels

Analysis from Kabul Afghanistan needs civilian investment not bombs

President Trump has given Defense Secretary Jim Mattis the authority to set USA troop levels in Afghanistan, a us official tells NPR's Tom Bowman.

"And we will correct this as soon as possible", Mattis said in testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The decision is part of a broader strategy being developed that addresses the US role in Afghanistan and beyond, Mattis said. During that time - and to further hide the reality of war from Americans - the Trump administration inexplicably stopped disclosing major conventional troop deployments to Iraq and Syria, a practice generally upheld by the past three presidents.

The U.S. has about 8,400 troops in Afghanistan, a cap set by President Barack Obama's White House, which closely controlled troop numbers in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria in a manner similar to the way the Bush administration handled such matters.

It has been four months since Army General John Nicholson, who leads U.S. and worldwide forces in Afghanistan, said he needed "a few thousand" additional forces, some potentially drawn from United States allies.

Mattis, according to The New York Times, is believed to favour sending several thousands more troops to Afghanistan, but has not taken a final decision in this regard.

Obama in 2014 declared an end the US and NATO-led combat operations in Afghanistan, and responsibilities were handed over to local forces.

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An explosion outside the diplomatic Green Zone in Kabul on May 31 killed at least 150 people and wounded more than 450.

"This decision is part of a broader strategy we are developing that addresses our role in Afghanistan and beyond". Army Gen. John Nicholson, the top US commander in Afghanistan, has told Congress that he could use an infusion of USA and allied troops to bolster support for the Afghan army.

Earlier this year, the Pentagon was considering a request for roughly 3,000 more troops, mainly for noncombat duties such as training and advising. The State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development could theoretically help round out such a strategy, but they are intentionally understaffed at present and not under the Pentagon's authority in the first place.

The new troops, if deployed, would "provide more fire and air support to the Afghans".

"This will enable our military to have greater agility to conduct operations".

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".

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