Mattis: Trump has delegated decisions on Afghan troop levels

  • Mattis: Trump has delegated decisions on Afghan troop levels

Mattis: Trump has delegated decisions on Afghan troop levels

The decision is part of a broader strategy being developed that addresses the US role in Afghanistan and beyond, Mattis said.

That President Trump is moving past that, in and of itself, may be a good thing. "And we will correct this as soon as possible", Mattis said.

The U.S. now has almost 8,400 troops in Afghanistan, mostly operating in a NATO-led mission to train, advise and assist Afghan forces for combat and a U.S. -led mission to fight terror groups, including al-Qaeda and ISIS.

It's also important because US officials tell me that removing the limits on USA forces in Afghanistan was the key stumbling block for the president to accept the broader regional strategy and war plan for Afghanistan. The Trump administration is reportedly considering increasing that number by up to 5,000.

The Pentagon declined to comment.

And the New York Times reports President Trump has given Mattis the authority to determine how many more troops he needs.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) told top Pentagon officials Tuesday their lack of coherent strategies is making it hard to argue for a larger military budget.

Some in the Pentagon have complained that the Obama White House's troop management system prevented them from acting quickly, and obscured the true number of troops in the country.

Trump has said very little about his intentions in Afghanistan. His predecessors both had hoped to win the war. Our overall mission Afghanistan remains the same.

Mattis' deployment of more troops will be far smaller than Obama's. If sent, the forces would help the fledgling Afghan military regain portions of the country that have fallen to the Taliban since USA forces ended their combat mission there in 2014.

Mattis said the Taliban were "surging" at the moment, something he said he meant to address.

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

Since 2001, the United States has spent about $110 billion on Afghanistan's reconstruction, more than the cost of the Marshall Plan that reconstruct Europe after World War II. These include forces that are technically considered temporary even if they've been in the warzone for months. The change was made public hours after Sen.

Senator John McCain, the chairman of the Armed Forces Committee, pressed Mattis on the deteriorating situation during the Tuesday hearing, saying the United States had an urgent need for "a change in strategy, and an increase in resources if we are to turn the situation around".

Mattis said Wednesday that his proposed strategy is also likely to call for inserting North Atlantic Treaty Organisation air controllers within Afghan units to make air response more effective against the Taliban or ISIS. While Trump has handed over the troop level decision-making, there is nothing preventing him from taking it back.

The U.S. maintains a force posture in the country of approxiumately 8,400 troops, down from a high in 2011 of about 100,000. In congressional testimony this week, he said the strategy will take into account regional influences, such as Pakistan's role as a Taliban sanctuary. All have political stakes in the outcome and Mattis spoke about the State Department putting diplomatic and economic pressure on these countries. Despite heavy losses, the Taliban fought on. "We pulled out our forces, at a time ... when the violence was lower", he said.