Trump Gives Mattis Authority To Set US Troop Levels In Afghanistan

"That is not to say we can't get there as we look for common ground", Mattis told a House Armed Services Committee hearing, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

US Defense Secretary James Mattis testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., US, June 13, 2017. "Right now, I believe the enemy is surging", and the "not winning".

Some US officials have questioned the benefit of sending more troops to Afghanistan because any politically palatable number would not be enough to turn the tide, much less create stability and security. Mattis, the former commander of all Middle East wars, said on Tuesday that the United States is not winning the war in Afghanistan.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., demanded that Mattis wrap up the plan now, threatening that, "unless we get a strategy from you, you're going to get a strategy from us".

"We recognize the need for urgency", Mattis said. Army Gen. John Nicholson, the top USA commander in Afghanistan, has told Congress that he could use an infusion of US and allied troops to bolster support for the Afghan army.

Mattis, a Trump appointee, placed the blame on Congress for what he considers to be an unprepared American fighting force, observing that short-term budget measures and a current law that limits military spending are placing USA troops at risk.

In written testimony, he said Pyongyang is increasing the pace and scope of its nuclear weapons program that leader Kim Jong-Un wants to be capable of delivering a bomb on the United States.

Responding to another question, Mattis hoped that the Afghan government with worldwide help will be able to handle the violence and drive it down to a level that local security forces can handle it.

On Saturday, three United States soldiers were killed when an Afghan soldier opened fire on them in eastern Afghanistan. The official also said that the U.S. estimates there are still several hundred ISIS fighters in eastern Afghanistan.

Their deaths came just days after a US Army special forces soldier was also killed in the region.

Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, added that he hoped Afghan troop casualties would be lower a year from now.

This sets the stage for U.S. commanders to begin sending more forces to Afghanistan, after years of reductions made in the hope that Kabul could handle internal threats on its own. And he said a key to that will be the need for the assist the Afghans in planning operations and providing aviation support while Kabul works to increase its combat air power.

"Four years later, I returned to the Department [of Defense], and I have been shocked by what I've seen about our readiness to fight..."

"But at this point, he has chosen to be competitive, a strategic competitor with us and we will have to deal with that as we see it", he said.

But Mattis and his top military officer, General Joe Dunford, said any military action against North Korea would have disastrous consequences for the peninsula.

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