Trump gives Pentagon authority to determine troop levels in Afghanistan

Donald Trump's hands-off approach gives US military free rein

Donald Trump's hands-off approach gives US military free rein

"The delegation of this authority does not in itself change the force levels for Afghanistan", Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in a statement.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis confirmed Wednesday President Trump has given him authority to set troop numbers in Afghanistan, but those new levels have not yet been decided.

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 USA interacts with the Afghan government and would take a greater regional approach to the conflict, rather than looking at Afghanistan in isolation.

Trump's decision was announced on June 14, the same day Mattis delivered a blunt assessment of the war in Afghanistan to lawmakers on the Senate Armed Services Committee. "I was called down with Senator McCain and other senators and briefed by Gen. McMaster and the vice president yesterday in the White House situation room", the South Carolina Republican said. In February, the USA commander of worldwide forces in Kabul, Gen John Nicholson, warned of a stalemate and requested up to 5,000 reinforcements. Such an authorisation was granted to Mattis by Trump. The administration has been reviewing its options, and Mattis told the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee that the mission remains the same: to train, advise and assist Afghan forces so that they can defend their own country and "terrorists can find no haven" there.

There are now about 8,400 United States troops devoted to Operation Resolute Support in Afghanistan, which encompasses both USA counter terrorism forces to fight ISIS and the Taliban as well as the effort to train, advise and assist Afghan forces in a separate effort.

Testifying to Congress this week, Mattis said a Taliban "surge" was reducing territory under Afghan government control. Afghan leaders endorse the idea of more USA troops, having lost significant ground to the Taliban in recent months.

Congressman Williams staff member one of multiple shot in Virginia
Jeff Flake of Arizona, who was practicing with the House members, described hearing "dozens and dozens and dozens of shots fired". Reps Joe Barton , Kevin Brady , Mike Conaway and Williams - that attended the practice.

"I think right now what we have to look at is what kind of capabilities do we bring to them because the Afghans have proven they will fight".

Past U.S. restrictions on U.S. air support was "misguided, he said. That meant, in the mountain country, these troops were often fighting at a disadvantage".

The U.S. has about 8,400 troops in Afghanistan. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who suggested it was an improvement over President Obama's micromanaging of US conflicts and with firm questions from key Democrats who have been wary of Trump's foreign policy.

Any increase of several thousand troops would leave American forces in Afghanistan well below their 2011 peak of more than 100,000 troops. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). He later added that this regional approach will include confronting nations sheltering the Haqqani network.

Mattis argued that the Obama administration's decision to pull support for Afghan forces allowed the Taliban to rebuild and refocus their efforts.

"Reconciliation is fundamental", he said. "All wars come to an end".

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