White House, Pentagon to take regionwide approach in new Afghan war plan

Posted June 16, 2017

As a candidate, Trump deplored the waste of America's wars and suggested he would try to end them. To date, over 2,300 Americans have been killed.

Mattis also noted that the additional troops could meet shortfalls for air power, logistical support and intelligence support for the Afghan military.

Trump's decision Tuesday to give Mattis authority to set force levels in Afghanistan mirrored similar powers he handed over earlier this year for US fights in Iraq and Syria.

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But General Raymond Thomas, commander of the US Special Operations Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing last month that the new Trump administration could permit more direct engagement between US forces and the Taliban. "It's going to have to be one that marries itself to reality and the current level of support" already being provided by American and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation troops, as well as the current capabilities of the country's police and military, he added.

His new strategy is a work in progress, Mattis said, and "does not at this time change the troop numbers in Afghanistan". Mattis' statement was made during a tense exchange with the committee's chairman, John McCain (R-Ariz.).

Mattis has repeatedly stressed that increasing the number of USA troops in Afghanistan would take place within a broader, long-term strategy for stabilizing Afghanistan.

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"To just say to Jim Mattis, 'Do whatever you think is best, ' and for Secretary Mattis to be able to add 30,000 troops, for example, without having to get the president to approve that, strikes me as unhealthy", Christine Wormuth, an Obama-era Pentagon policy official, said to the AP, "It certainly could be interpreted as the president kind of distancing himself from these profound decisions and specifically from what we're doing in Afghanistan". "We will continue to work with our allies and we will ask more of them", he said, adding that "Working with the Afghan government and our allies and partners, we will achieve victory against the terrorists overseas, protect our borders at home, and keep America safe". "And we will correct this as soon as possible".

He stressed that a new strategy for Afghanistan emphasizing a "regional approach" worked out with Pakistan and India and in concert with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson would be presented for Trump's approval in mid-July. "What is the USA objective, what's the USA mission and why are we bombing anybody in Afghanistan?"

Mattis told a House Appropriations panel on Thursday he didn't foresee returning to the force levels of 2010-11, when then-President Barack Obama was trying to pressure the Taliban into peace talks.

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