Pentagon to get authority for Afghanistan troop levels

But that plan has not yet been presented to Congress and a senior administration official told CNN on Monday that President Donald Trump is not expected to make a decision on the USA strategy in Afghanistan for several more weeks.

US Secretary of Defense James Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday that he will be able to brief the committee on a new Afghanistan strategy by mid-July.

The Taliban "had a good year last year", Mattis said, referencing gains made by the militant group that has been battling US -led troops in Afghanistan since 2001.

Reuters reported in late April that Trump's administration was carrying out a review of Afghanistan and conversations were revolving around sending between 3,000 and 5,000 usa and coalition troops there.

Mattis testified very bluntly to members of the Senate Armed Services Committee about the declining military situation in Afghanistan, but said that he will have the problem fixed shortly, according to Reuters.

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

Mr. Mattis acknowledged Tuesday the position White House national security strategists were putting Congress, as well as the Pentagon, as the administration continues to hammer away at a proposed strategy for Afghanistan.

"We're now six months into this administration, we still haven't got a strategy for Afghanistan", McCain said, noting it was hard to get behind an Afghanistan budget request without knowing what the plan is. "Right now, I believe that the enemy is surging, right now", Mattis said.

Mattis said that despite budget limitations this year, "real growth" will come in 2019 and 2023 with a program that OMB has in the works and that President Trump supports.

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The issue of troop levels became especially sensitive in the Obama administration because precise so-called "force management levels" were set for USA deployments to Iraq and Syria.

About 8,500 US troops and another 5,000 other foreign allies are still stationed in Afghanistan, even though the official combat mission there ended in 2014.

Deliberations include giving more authority to forces on the ground and taking more aggressive action against Taliban fighters.

A new strategy for Afghanistan will soon be released.

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

Any increase of several thousand troops would leave American forces in Afghanistan well below their 2011 peak of more than 100,000 troops. To date, more than 2,300 Americans have been killed and more than 17,000 wounded since the war began in 2001.

McCain mentioned the "three fearless Americans" who were killed in Afghanistan on Saturday, when an Afghan soldier gunned them down.

"We have had a large number of USA and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces in Afghanistan, but it didn't' help, and the situation just got worse", said Naqibullah, who like many Afghans uses only one name.

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