66445
US Military to Set Afghan Troop Levels
US Military to Set Afghan Troop Levels

US Military to Set Afghan Troop Levels

US Military to Set Afghan Troop Levels

US President Donald Trump has given Defense Secretary Jim Mattis the authority to set troop levels in Afghanistan, a US official told Reuters on Tuesday, opening the door for future troop increases requested by the US commander.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said no immediate decision had been made about the troop levels, which are now set at about 8,400.
The Pentagon declined to comment.
The decision is similar to one announced in April that applied to US troop levels in Iraq and Syria, and came as Mattis warned Congress the US-backed Afghan forces were not beating the Taliban despite more than 15 years of war.
“We are not winning in Afghanistan right now,” Mattis said in testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier on Tuesday. “And we will correct this as soon as possible.”
Mattis said the Taliban were “surging” at the moment, something he said he intended to address.
A former US official said such a decision might allow the White House to argue that it was not micromanaging as much as the administration of former president, Barack Obama, was sometimes accused of doing.
Critics say delegating too much authority to the military does not shield Trump from political responsibility during battlefield setbacks and could reduce the chances for diplomats to warn of potential blowback from military decisions.
It has been four months since Army General John Nicholson, who leads US and international forces in Afghanistan, said he needed “a few thousand” additional forces, some potentially drawn from US allies.
Current and former US officials say discussions revolve around adding 3,000 to 5,000 troops. Those forces are expected to largely comprise trainers to support Afghan forces, as well as air crews.
The Afghan government was assessed by the US military to control or influence just 59.7% of Afghanistan’s 407 districts as of Feb. 20, a nearly 11 percentage-point decrease from the same time in 2016, according to data released by the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

 

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