Mattis: Trump has delegated decisions on Afghan troop levels

Analysis from Kabul Afghanistan needs civilian investment not bombs

Mattis: Trump has delegated decisions on Afghan troop levels

Trump has delegated authority to manage the number of USA troops sent to Afghanistan to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Mattis said Wednesday, June 14, 2017, he can now set USA troop levels in Afghanistan after receiving the authority from President Donald Trump.

During Wednesday's hearing, Mattis laid some of the blame for the current situation in Afghanistan on Obama's timeline, noting that pulling forces at a predetermined pace only emboldened the Taliban and strained a government and military that wasn't ready to fight without USA and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation support.

Media reports have said Mattis is considering asking for 3,000 to 5,000 additional USA and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation troops, but the defense chief has said little on the matter.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official told AFP that Pentagon chief Jim Mattis can now directly adjust troop numbers, though the official would not confirm whether a new "force management level" - currently at around 8,400 - had been finalized. "Our primary national interest and the global interest in Afghanistan is ensuring it does not become an ungoverned space from which attacks can be launched against the United States, other nations or the Afghan people", he said.

The fight in Afghanistan remains important, the secretary said, noting that Afghanistan was the staging ground for the al-Qaida terrorists who attacked America on September 11, 2001.

Roughly 8,400 US troops are already serving in Afghanistan.

"I would say that the reason we have not been attacked over many years from where the 9/11 attack originated is heavily due to the sacrifices that we have made over years as we have kept the enemy on the back foot", Mattis said. Throughout his tenure, Obama's White House reviewed even small changes in US troop levels in Afghanistan.

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, during his Kabul visit yesterday, said there is no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan that is forcing record numbers of people from their homes.

"This decision is part of a broader strategy we are developing that addresses our role in Afghanistan and beyond".

Army General John Nicholson, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, told Congress that he could use an infusion of United States 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 training and advising. We can not allow Afghanistan to once again become a launching point for attacks on our homeland or on our allies.

Some critics see delegation of troop level decisions as a way for Trump to abdicate responsibility for decisions on America's longest war, one that has cost the lives of more than 2,000 troops. "And we will correct this as soon as possible". The increased fight has led to a recent string of American deaths.

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