Global

Trump gives Pentagon authority to set troop levels in Afghanistan

Trump gives Pentagon authority to set troop levels in Afghanistan

Although Trump has delegated authority for USA troop numbers in Afghanistan, the responsibility for America's wars and the men and women who fight in them rests on his shoulders.

Many believe that Trump is trying to shift responsibility for the situation in Afghanistan onto the Defense Department by giving them authority over troop levels.

In testimony before a Senate panel, Mattis said the decision does not mean US troop levels will change immediately.

The U.S. now has about 8,400 troops in Afghanistan performing two main missions: hunting and attacking violent extremists, including an Islamic State-affiliated group in eastern Afghanistan; and supporting Afghan combat forces against the Taliban.

"We can not allow Afghanistan to once again become a launching point for attacks on our homeland or on our allies", he said, alluding to the former Taliban government's granting haven to Al-Qaeda before the September 11, 2011 terror attacks in the US.

It's also important because USA officials tell me that removing the limits on US forces in Afghanistan was the key stumbling block for the president to accept the broader regional strategy and war plan for Afghanistan.

Mattis says this does not reflect any change in military strategy for the 16-year war.

Testifying to Congress this week, Mattis said a Taliban "surge" was reducing territory under Afghan government control.

McCain said the Trump administration had yet to offer a new strategy different that that of his predecessor Barack Obama.

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. "We are there to help defeat a common enemy and ensure Afghan forces can safeguard the future of their country", the statement said.

Highlighting the continuing security challenges in Afghanistan, three U.S. soldiers were killed in the eastern part of the country last weekend, with a fourth wounded, according to the Pentagon. However, Mattis also revealed that he hasn't yet decided whether to send in more troops.

"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", she added.

The Trump administration is in the process of reviewing US policy toward Afghanistan, and Mattis said today that a new strategy would be released by mid-July.

Civilian casualties in 2016 hit a record high level, according to data from the U.N. Assistance Mission to Afghanistan, which began tracking the deaths in 2009.

In April, the president gave Mattis authority to set USA troop levels in Iraq and Syria.

Nevertheless, there are at least another 2,000 USA troops in Afghanistan not included in the official count. He disparaged Obama for withdrawing US troops from Iraq.

"We know what the strategy was for the last eight years: Don't lose".


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