McCain slams Pentagon for Afghan policy delay

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis carries a binder before he testifies at a House Armed Services Committee hearing on the defense budget for the 2018 budget year on Capitol Hill Monday

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis carries a binder before he testifies at a House Armed Services Committee hearing on the defense budget for the 2018 budget year on Capitol Hill Monday

Like frustrated constituents at a town hall meeting, Pentagon officials Monday night expressed deep disappointment at Congress, for failing to do its job.

US Defense Secretary James Mattis has acknowledged that the United States is "not winning" in the war in Afghanistan.

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 USA -backed Afghan forces were not beating the Taliban despite more than 15 years of war. That includes $574 billion for the Pentagon "base budget" and almost $65 billion for overseas operations. Despite support from the committee, Mattis said "Congress as a whole has met the present challenge with lassitude, not leadership". "In the past, by failing to pass a budget on time or eliminate the threat of sequestration, Congress sidelined itself from its active constitutional oversight role".

The U.S. Defense Department said 25-year-old Sgt. Eric M. Houck, 29-year-old Sgt. William M. Bays and 22-year-old Corporal Dillon C. Baldridge of the Army's 101st Airborne Division were killed during the attack in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar.

Trump gave Mattis similar authority in Iraq and Syria. Continuing resolutions coupled with sequestration blocked new programs, prevented service growth, stalled industry initiative and placed troops at greater risk.

Mattis, who testified alongside Joint Chiefs Chairman Joseph F. Dunford Jr., added that he expects to brief lawmakers about the new strategy in mid-July. He's appearing before the committee with Mattis. Still, the 2018 request will not be an easy sell, for several reasons. In 2016, there were more than 11,000 civilian casualties, including 3,498 killed.

The sequestration provision of the Budget Control Act of 2011 imposes across-the-board spending cuts if Congress and the White House can not agree on more targeted cuts.

Mattis said that the funding gets the military "back on its feet" and it's $52 billion above the $549 billion permitted by the BCA caps.

"The budget presented to Congress has no workable solution for sequestration". The aim of the increased intelligence will be to find high value targets and concentrations of ISIS fighters, the official said.

And therein lies the problem for Defense.

The two most recent agreements to waive the budget caps allowed increases for both defense and domestic spending, as demanded by Democrats. Both House and Senate members and the witnesses agreed that the US must end sequestration and repeal the Budget Control Act of 2011.

Senator John McCain, the chairman of the Armed Forces Committee, pressed Mattis on the deteriorating situation during the Tuesday hearing, saying the United States had an urgent need for "a change in strategy, and an increase in resources if we are to turn the situation around". We know what the strategy was for the last eight years: "Don't lose". "It would be a very, very serious war".

Mattis, asked Monday if the threat posed by ballistic missiles is growing, said that the threat is growing, but that existing missile-defence systems stationed at Fort Greely in Alaska and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California pose an adequate amount of protection as the Pentagon examines long-term options.

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