Sunday, 27 May, 2018

U.S. military posture in Afghanistan in regional context: Mattis

Lillian Steele | 16 June, 2017, 06:28

Afghan security forces are leading the fight and US and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation troops are serving as advisers and providing air and other critical support. The rising threat posed by Islamic State extremists, evidenced in a rash of deadly attacks in the capital city of Kabul, has only fueled calls for a stronger USA presence, as have several recent American combat deaths.

"We can not allow Afghanistan to once again become a launching point for attacks on our homeland or on our allies", he said, alluding to the former Taliban government's granting haven to Al-Qaeda before the September 11, 2011 terror attacks in the US.

But General Raymond Thomas, commander of the US Special Operations Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing last month that the new Trump administration could permit more direct engagement between US forces and the Taliban.

Earlier this week President Trump delegated that authority to Mattis, delegating an authority that had resided at the White House during the George W. Bush and Obama administrations.

The Pentagon is preparing to send almost 4,000 troops to Afghanistan to fight in America's longest war in an effort to turn the tide against the Taliban.

"And we will do so", the Pentagon chief said before the House subpanel. The change was made public hours after Sen.

Nevertheless, there are at least another 2,000 USA troops in Afghanistan not included in the official count.

The 16-year USA military involvement in Afghanistan is the longest war in the nation's history, and all indications are that it will be getting longer.

The US now has around 8,400 soldiers in Afghanistan with about another 5,000 troops from North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies.

He stressed that a new strategy for Afghanistan emphasizing a "regional approach" worked out with Pakistan and India and in concert with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson would be presented for Trump's approval in mid-July. "We will continue to work with our allies and we will ask more of them", he said, adding that "Working with the Afghan government and our allies and partners, we will achieve victory against the terrorists overseas, protect our borders at home, and keep America safe". Afghan leaders endorse the idea of more USA troops, having lost significant ground to the Taliban in recent months. Two months earlier, Trump gave Mattis similar authority over USA forces in Iraq and Syria. While Trump has handed over the troop level decision-making, there is nothing preventing him from taking it back.

"Reconciliation" with the Taliban remains the goal, Mattis said."We're not looking at a purely military strategy", he said.

The move is another sign of the flexibility the Trump administration has given USA military commanders.

There are about 8,400 US troops in Afghanistan now in addition to several thousand troops from allied countries. Three U.S. soldiers were killed and another was wounded in eastern Afghanistan this weekend in an attack claimed by the Taliban.

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