Mattis to decide troop levels in Afghanistan

Mattis said the U.S.is not winning the war there and that the military is taking steps to make certain America doesn't pay a price for the delay in the new plan.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that anything less than 3 percent growth annually could lead to America falling behind near-peer competitors such as China or Russian Federation.

Dunford began his remarks by asking for more money for the military, which has been hampered since 2013 by a set of prescribed budget cuts known as sequestration.

"Since 9/11, an extraordinarily high operational tempo has accelerated the wear and tear of our weapons and equipment", he said. While the U.S. was focused on terrorism, potential adversaries have invested in technologies meant to "limit our ability to project power", he added.

"Unless we change the path we're on, we're going to be at a competitive disadvantage qualitatively", the chairman told the committee.

Mattis said the Trump administration is working on a strategy; he understands the urgency; and he expects to have details by mid-July. Or as McCain described the situation, which Mattis subsequently confirmed, "We're not winning in Afghanistan".

"The world is not stopping and waiting on us to get our act together", said Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, the committee chairman.

"We're now six months into [President Donald Trump's] administration, we still haven't got a strategy for Afghanistan". Joe Donnelly (D-Indiana) when he asked: "Are we better shape now than previous year?"

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Tuesday that the military had presented to Congress an unfunded requirements list of $33 billion for fiscal year 2018.

He added that he believed Qatar is "moving in the right direction" when it comes to curtailing its funding of terrorism and said the United States needed to find common ground with Qatar due to the two countries' shared interest. "Both countries are making their objections known by challenging established worldwide norms, such as freedom of the seas and the sovereignty of nations on their periphery", he said.

"We need bipartisan support for this budget request", the secretary told the committee.

Lawmakers repeatedly asked Mattis for an update on Afghanistan, and about whether Trump will deploy thousands more troops to help Afghan partners reverse a stalemate against the resurgent Taliban.

Observing that instability in the Middle East spills over into other regions, Mattis said extremists and extremist ideologies have spread to Europe, Africa and Asia.

Mattis said forces should "handle the violence" there. Afghan forces have suffered 15,000 casualties, including more than 5,000 killed, over the first eight months of 2016.

The broader regional US strategy for Afghanistan remains unclear.

The development came just hours after Mattis gave lengthy testimony to lawmakers, some of whom were exasperated at how long it has taken for Trump to come up with a new strategy in Afghanistan.

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