Pentagon chief backs Iran nuclear deal ahead of certifying deadline

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis

The United States will soon decide whether to keep open a Taliban office in Qatar as America steps up its Afghan war effort, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Tuesday, adding he was looking at who represents the increasingly fractious insurgency.

Trump, while announcing the new strategy for Afghanistan, had criticised Pakistan for providing safe havens to terror outfits.

When Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat, asked for a specific number, Mattis replied, "No, ma'am".

"I think a decision will be made shortly" James Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday.

"The fighting will continue to be carried out by our Afghan partners", he said, "but our advisers will accompany tactical units to advise and bring North Atlantic Treaty Organisation fire support to bear when needed".

"The Iran Deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into", he said on 19 September. We must be convinced of the merits of the administration's actions.

Reuters first reported that possible Trump administration responses being discussed include expanding USA drone strikes and perhaps eventually downgrading Pakistan's status as a major non-NATO ally.

The administration has also not defined what ground conditions would lead to a U.S. withdrawal, nor has it publicly said exactly how many more American troops are headed to Afghanistan.

Dunford acknowledged, however, that the war in Afghanistan is now a stalemate.

"A political settlement in Afghanistan is only possible if the Taliban reject support or conduct of terrorism", he said. Dunford says the USA will "fight to win" by attacking enemies, "crushing" al-Qaida, and preventing terrorist attacks against Americans.

Trump also singled out Pakistan for harboring Taliban leaders and other militants that are battling American troops in Afghanistan.

As part of the plan, the Pentagon is boosting troop numbers by about 3,500, augmenting the roughly 11,000 Americans now stationed there. Trump's tough words about Pakistan, a troubled USA security partner, infuriated Islamabad, which has denied the country provides safe havens for the Taliban. Ending the Obama administration's "foolish policy of arbitrary timetables for withdrawal" and shifting to a conditions-based approach in Afghanistan was encouraging, McCain said, but more information is needed.

If Trump does not recertify by October 15 that Iran is in compliance, Congress would have 60 days to decide whether to reimpose sanctions on Tehran suspended under the accord. Denying certification could lead the reintroduce sanctions, which in turn could lead Iran to walk away from the deal or restart previously curtailed nuclear activities.

Mattis has signed off on sending at least 3,000 more soldiers to the 16-year-old war, and told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the idea is to use the new troops much like American forces are now arrayed in Iraq and Syria, where they provide advice and call in air and artillery strikes on insurgent positions. Mattis and Dunford said that broadly, that will require the United States to build more support internationally to sway Pakistan from doing so.

"I believe at this point in time, absent indication to the contrary, it is something that the president should consider staying with", he said.

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