Trump hands to Pentagon troop level decisions on Afghanistan

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President Donald Trump has granted the Pentagon authority to set troop levels in Afghanistan, a U.S. official said on Tuesday, a move that could lead to the deployment of thousands more soldiers.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis blamed the Obama administration Wednesday for the withdrawal of US and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces in 2014 that he said allowed the Taliban to regroup in Afghanistan.

Mattis, according to The New York Times, is believed to favour sending several thousands more troops to Afghanistan, but has not taken a final decision in this regard.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official said that Pentagon chief Jim Mattis can now directly adjust troop numbers, though the official would not confirm whether a new "force management level" - currently at around 8,400 - had been finalized.

Reading between the lines-and while noting that the "broader strategy" is by the administration's own admission not yet strategized-it appears that what happened is that Trump was asked to set parameters for what ought to be done in Afghanistan, was presented a range of options, and upon being presented with those complex and critical choices got bored or peeved and told everyone else to do it themselves.

Media reports have said Mattis is considering asking for 3,000 to 5,000 additional USA and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation troops, but the defense chief has said little on the matter.

"I don't have anything I can comment on that right now".

Prior to the White House decision, Mattis had warned that the Taliban was surging - having claimed a series of deadly attacks, including against Afghan military bases and positions - and that America still was "not winning" in the country almost 16 years after the US-led invasion there.


"I will set the USA military commitment, consistent with the commander in chief's strategic direction", Mattis told a Senate panel, announcing a break with past White House control over troop numbers.

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, during his Kabul visit yesterday, said there is no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan that is forcing record numbers of people from their homes.

Some critics see delegation of troop level decisions as a way for Trump to abdicate responsibility for decisions on America's longest war, one that has cost the lives of more than 2,000 troops.

Earlier this year, the Pentagon was considering a request for roughly 3,000 more troops, mainly for noncombat duties such as training and advising.

"Does Mattis do something different, or fall into the trap of the last eight years of doing the same thing but doing it better?"

US and coalition forces are working the support mission, and Afghan forces will receive the air support that was in short supply, the secretary said.

He added: "We are not winning in Afghanistan right now. We will correct this as soon as possible", he said.

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