Trump hands to Pentagon troop level decisions on Afghanistan

Lawmakers demand new strategy for 16-year war in Afghanistan if Pentagon wants to see more troops deployed

Lawmakers demand new strategy for 16-year war in Afghanistan if Pentagon wants to see more troops deployed

President Donald Trump's decision to allow his Pentagon chief to set USA troop levels in Afghanistan won't mean an immediate infusion of troops but should improve management of the war effort, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Wednesday. It's a break from past practice that Mattis said will enable him to more effectively manage the war effort.

Reading between the lines-and while noting that the "broader strategy" is by the administration's own admission not yet strategized-it appears that what happened is that Trump was asked to set parameters for what ought to be done in Afghanistan, was presented a range of options, and upon being presented with those complex and critical choices got bored or peeved and told everyone else to do it themselves.

It has been 15 years since USA forces were first deployed to Afghanistan following the September 11 attacks, making it the nation's longest-running war.

Exactly when the new troop levels will go into effect is unclear, but the Trump administration strategy for Afghanistan is expected to be complete by mid-July, as Mattis testified.

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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.

Despite Mattis telling the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that "we are not winning right now in Afghanistan", beating the Taliban is an unrealistic goal, Barno said.

Trump came into office saying he meant to give his generals more leeway, and Mattis has said the new authority will help him improve management of the war.

The decision is similar to one announced in April that applied to US troop levels in Iraq and Syria.

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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. These forces would help the fledgling Afghan military regain parts of the country that have fallen to the Taleban since United States forces ended their combat mission there in 2014.

U.S. National Intelligence Director Dan Coats also warned last month that the security situation in Afghanistan would most likely deteriorate in the future even if the United States and its allies offer more military aid.

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

He added: "We are not winning in Afghanistan right now".

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That decision, however, had been stalled by a broader review by the Trump administration of Afghan policy and a push for North Atlantic Treaty Organisation to contribute more troops. Additional conversations must be had if the Pentagon decides it needs a few thousand more additional troops in coming years, he said.

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