Mattis is believed to favor sending several thousand more American troops to strengthen the effort to advise Afghan forces as they push back against gains made by the Taliban, the Islamic State and other militant groups.
There are now about 8,400 United States troops devoted to Operation Resolute Support in Afghanistan, which encompasses both USA counter terrorism forces to fight ISIS and the Taliban as well as the effort to train, advise and assist Afghan forces in a separate effort. Mattis called for the government to "correct this" as soon as possible. Mattis said that the Taliban was surging throughout the country, and that he planned to present lawmakers with a strategy for the United States' longest running war by mid-July.
"Afghanistan welcomes the decision by president Trump to give Defence Secretary General James Mattis the authority to set USA military troop levels in Afghanistan, a development that underscores the United States' strong commitment to our two countries' long-term joint efforts to defeat common enemies and bring about peace and stability", Afghanistan's Ambassador to America Hamdullah Mohib said.
The Taliban has been making a comeback in recent years. "Rather, it ensures the Department of Defense can facilitate our missions and align our commitment to the rapidly evolving security situation, giving our troops greater latitude to provide air power and other vital support", Mattis said. Today there are approximately 8,500 USA forces in the country, along with many contractors who provide logistical support for US war fighters.
"I've never been more proud of President Trump and his team than I am right now".
Senior defense officials have previously said the new strategy could require between 3,000 to 5,000 additional forces.
There are now 8,400 USA troops in Afghanistan on a dual mission of training, advising and assisting Afghan troops in their fight against the Taliban and a conducting counterterrorism missions against groups such as al Qaeda and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
While the new troops could raise fears of mission creep, Mattis told lawmakers this week he didn't envision returning to the force levels of 2010-11, when Obama thought he could pressure the Taliban into peace talks.
About 2,400 USA troops have been killed in Afghanistan since 2001 and another 20,000 wounded.
There are now over 9,000 USA troops in Afghanistan.
Mattis said the delegation of authority does not necessarily mean the us military footprint will increase, arguing it gives the Pentagon needed flexibility in adjusting to battlefield conditions. Afghanistan's intelligence has service blamed the Haqqani Network, which is supported by Pakistan's main spy agency, for the attack.
There now are about 8,400 US troops in Afghanistan. Additional conversations must be had if the Pentagon decides it needs a few thousand more additional troops in coming years, he said.
This decision is part of a broader strategy we are developing that addresses our role in Afghanistan and beyond.