Mattis: Trump has delegated decisions on Afghan troop levels

Posted June 15, 2017

Obama ended the US combat role in Afghanistan in 2014. Apparently, the decision is so hard and burdensome that President Trump has now opted to avoid it altogether.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says President Donald Trump has given him the authority to determine United States troop levels in Afghanistan.

The prospect of new US troop levels in Afghanistan came at a time when senior USA officials warned of dire security situation in Afghanistan.

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's not immediately clear how the decision will impact force levels, and the White House and the Pentagon have not officially commented on the policy. Such an authorisation was granted to Mattis by Trump. Rather, the president is dispersing his own responsibility to an extremely popular and colorful retired Marine general.

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It can not be overstated how abnormal this new White House-Pentagon dynamic is. Still missing: an overall Trump strategy for America's longest conflict.

Mattis said in testimony Tuesday that the strategy is being developed in a broader context that includes Afghanistan's neighbors, Iran and Pakistan, as well as India. On Monday night, during a House Armed Services Committee hearing, he declared, "I think we've got to do things differently, sir". With Trump washing his hands of the expanded military mission, who will be helping Mattis achieve his strategic vision?

As of February, the U.S. military assessed that the Afghan government was in control of or influenced 59.7 percent of Afghanistan's 407 districts, almost an 11 percent-point decrease from the same time in 2016, according to data released by the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR).

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on June 14 that he will present a new military strategy for Afghanistan, including an adjusted troop number within weeks.

"That meant in the mountain country these troops were often fighting at a disadvantage".

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Currently, there are about 8,400 US 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.

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

Asked what he hoped the situation in Afghanistan would look like a year from now, Mattis said violence would be down, government corruption would be reduced and the Taliban would be "rolled back", with less freedom of movement on the battlefield. Like previous senior civilian and military officials, Mattis did not offer metrics that could be measured, evaluated, and falsified - the only basis on which to evaluate policy. How many thousands more lives lost? There has been nothing like this in the 70 years since the defense secretary position was established.

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.

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