White House hands control over Afghan troop levels to military

White House hands control over Afghan troop levels to military

"The competitive advantage the United States has enjoyed is eroding", Dunford told the House committee Monday evening.

At the same time, the GAO, the chief government watchdog, said the Defense Department faces five key challenges "that significantly affect the department's ability to accomplish its mission". "I was confident that in the first 30 to 60 days we were going to have a strategy from which to start working".

The broader regional United States strategy for Afghanistan remains unclear.

Mattis later described winning in Afghanistan as forming a central government that, with worldwide help, "will be able to handle the violence".

"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.

Mattis promised McCain and the committee that the Pentagon was putting together a strategy against the insurgents. "And we will correct this as soon as possible", Mattis said during his testimony.

The lack of a strategy is leading to losses on the battlefield, both men told Sen.

Mattis, when pressed again about the plan, said getting a government-wide strategy can't be done quickly, and that there are ongoing efforts to ensure North Atlantic Treaty Organisation participation so that it's "not all on the backs of American taxpayers".

"Without sustained, sufficient, and predictable funding, I assess that within 5 years we will lose our ability to project power; the basis of how we defend the homeland, advance USA interests, and meet our alliance commitments", Dunford said.

Despite months of expectation that a full Afghanistan strategy announcement is imminent, Mattis said the new plans not be ready before mid-July.

"The regime's provocative actions, manifestly illegal under global law, have not abated despite United Nations' censure and sanctions", Mattis said. "We've got to confront them there".

Currently, there are about 8,400 American troops deployed in Afghanistan to assist the Afghan military in its fight against the Taliban and the ISIS affiliate in Afghanistan. The result, said Mattis, was a global security environment more volatile than any he'd seen in four decades of military service.

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

The Taliban "had a good year last year", Mattis said, referencing gains made by the militant group that has been battling USA -led troops in Afghanistan since 2001. This is 11 percent less than the military held around the same time in 2016.

The secretary urged the committee and other members of Congress to "fully fund our request, which requires an increase to the defense budget caps" and to pass a fiscal 2018 defense budget in a timely manner "to avoid yet another harmful continuing resolution" and to "eliminate the threat of future sequestration cuts so we can provide a stable budgetary planning horizon".

Since then, the coalition has taken down Manbij and targeted Raqqa, the de facto IS capital. "Congress and the Department [of Defense] could not anticipate the accumulated wear and tear of years of continuous combat use", he said. US Apache helicopters and Marine howitzers are supporting the SDF ground forces.

"As far as the Tanf situation", Mattis said. Syrian President Bashar Assad is "flexing his muscle" and moving to break through to the surrounded government garrison in Deir-ez-Zor.

"Since the 1990s, China, Russia, other countries have studied United States capabilities from precision munitions to our ability to project power", Dunford said, calling U.S. power projection "our source of strength".

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