Mattis blames Congress for poor state of US combat readiness

Gen. Dunford at HASC

Mattis blames Congress for poor state of US combat readiness

President Donald Trump has given the Pentagon unilateral authority to send thousands of new American troops to Afghanistan at its discretion, a USA official said Tuesday, clearing the way for the us military to intensify its fight against the Taliban and Islamic State extremists in the region.

The U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak more freely, said the move is similar to the April decision that gave the Pentagon more authority to set troop levels in Iraq and Syria. The move comes earlier than anticipated; it was expected that any action on changes in US troop strength in Afghanistan would come after mid-July, when the administration's strategy review is completed.

The defense secretary also warned the House Armed Services Committee that North Korea has become the most urgent threat to peace and security, and said - without giving details - that America must do things differently in Afghanistan.

There now are 8,500 US troops in Afghanistan who split between providing support to Afghan troops and hunting various terrorist groups spread throughout the country.

His comments come a day after the Pentagon identified the three USA soldiers killed by an Afghan soldier over the weekend in Nangarhar province in the eastern part of the country.

The senator then reminded Mattis that it's his responsibility to present a strategy for victory in Afghanistan.

Joseph Dunford and the Pentagon's new comptroller, David Norquist - appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee to discuss President Donald Trump's proposed fiscal 2018 defense budget.

13 de junio de 2017, 15:58Washington, Jun 13 (Prensa Latina) US Secretary of Defense James Mattis recognized the progress of the Taliban Movement in Afghanistan and the problems of his country in the conflict with that Asian nation. He also said he will likely brief the committee on a new Afghanistan strategy by mid-July.

McCain said he was confident that within the first 30-60 days of the Trump administration, a strategy would be produced. "Right now, I believe the enemy is surging", and the "not winning".

"We want a strategy, and I don't think that's a hell of a lot to ask", McCain told Mattis.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., asked Dunford whether the diplomatic rift between Qatar and several of its neighbors, including Saudi Arabia, is impeding US military operations, given that the USA uses Qatar's al-Udeid air base as a critical air operations center for the wars.

United States troops in Afghanistan number about 8,400 today, and there are another 5,000 from North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies, who mainly serve in a training and advisory capacity.

"It's going to be an era of frequent skirmishing and it's going to require a change in our approach from the last several years if we're to get it to that position", Mattis said.

The U.S. already spends more on defense than any other country in the world - by a lot.

In February, General John Nicholson, the top USA commander in Afghanistan, described the military situation in Afghanistan as "a stalemate" and acknowledged the need for additional troops to help train, advise and assist the Afghan military.

As of February 20, a U.S. military assessment from the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction revealed that the Afghan government controls 59.7 percent of the country's 407 districts, nearly an 11 percentage-point decrease from 2016.

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