Trump gives US military authority to set Afghan troop levels

Frederick Owens
June 14, 2017

Earlier, Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he would be able to brief the committee on a new Afghanistan strategy by mid-July.

There are now about 8,400 USA troops devoted to Operation Resolute Support in Afghanistan, which encompasses both US counter terrorism forces to fight the ISIS and the Taliban as well as the effort to train, advise and assist Afghan forces in a separate effort. Officials were investigating whether they were killed by friendly fire in the opening minutes of the three-hour battle. The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack. "But we recognize the need for urgency and your criticism is fair, sir".

Committee Chairman Congressman Mac Thornberry and other Republicans bemoaned the increase as insufficient. Dunford said the USA and its allies would win, but the casualties would be "unlike anything we've seen" in decades.

"We can't keep going like this", McCain said. Lawmakers critical of Trump's $639 billion budget proposal as insufficient used the hearing to set up the fight to increase military spending as the House crafts its version of the budget in the coming weeks. "It's hard when we have no strategy to pursue".

Most media reports, however, suggest that the new strategy would recommend sending 5,000 to 10,000 additional troops.

This sets the stage for USA 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.

Mattis told the panel the strategy would be ready soon.

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"We're putting it together now and there are going to be - there are actions being taken to make certain that we don't pay a price for the delay", he said.

Mattis appeared before the committee along with Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to field questions from lawmakers on President Donald Trump's proposed military budget for the 2018 fiscal year, which begins October 1. This breaks down to $574.5 billion for the Defense Department's base budget requirements and $64.6 billion for overseas contingency operations.

Mattis said North Korea and Russian Federation are part of a larger national security strategy review, which also is not yet complete.

Russian Federation and the United States have a number of diverging interests, including in Syria. "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", said Mattis.

"They want to keep us from getting into the area", Dunford told the committee, adding "this is both the case of Russian Federation, with regard to our North Atlantic Treaty Organisation alliances, and China, with regard to meeting our commitments in the Pacific". I did not anticipate that the Russians would move there.

They said this will be separate from the request to increase the number of advisers for training and assistance and the United States would expect to increase the frequency of airstrikes launched. Last week, an F-15E Strike Eagle fired on an Iranian-made drone that had dropped a munition on coalition forces patrolling near the base.

Russian Federation said on Saturday it had told the United States it was unacceptable for Washington to strike pro-government forces in Syria after the US military carried out air strikes on pro-Syrian government militia. Deb Fischer of Nebraska, Dunford said that competitors like Russian Federation and China have studied USA power projection and have invested in assets that could potentially offset the U.S. military's advantages.

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