Mattis: 'We are not winning in Afghanistan,' new strategy is weeks away

Olive Rios
June 14, 2017

When asked about the military strategy in Afghanistan, Secretary Mattis said he would present options "very soon" to the president. There are presently just under 10,000 US service members in the Asian nation.

Defense Secretary James Mattis pulled no punches Tuesday when lawmakers pressed the defense chief for his assessment of the ongoing war in Afghanistan.

Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) questioned whether the U.S. is throwing good money after bad in Afghanistan, because the Pentagon doesn't appear to have a strategy.

According to Mattis, the Pentagon defines the winning in Afghanistan as a situation where the Afghan government, with worldwide help, will be able to handle the violence and drive it down to a level that local security forces can handle it. "We just lost three fearless Americans, when can we expect the Congress of the United States to get a strategy for Afghanistan that is a departure from the last eight years, which is "don't lose"?"

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford stuck by his previous ranking of Russia as the greatest threat, listing the five key challenges as Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, and violent extremist organizations.

McCain pressed Mattis on the urgency of a new plan for Afghanistan: "I hope you understand that we're going to start getting more vocal in our criticism of not having a strategy for Afghanistan".

McCain noted there are "problems within this administration" when it comes to determining a strategy. We still haven't got a strategy for Afghanistan. "It's yours", he said.

However, U.S. policy makers and senior military officers remain most concerned with the prospect of North Korea acquiring intercontinental-range ballistic missile capabilities.

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Mattis: 'We are not winning in Afghanistan,' new strategy is weeks away

To date, more than 2,300 Americans have been killed and more than 17,000 wounded since the war began in 2001. North Atlantic Treaty Organisation nations such as Britain also have lost troops during the conflict.

"Let's not ask families to sacrifice any further without a strategy", he said.

The US-led occupying force officially announced to end its combat operations against the Taliban in the country at the end of 2014, and its current mission is to "train, advise, and assist" Afghan troops.

Testifying Monday night before the House Armed Services Committee, Mattis took aim at lawmakers for repeatedly approving short-term spending measures that provide too little money and lack the authority the service branches need to prepare their troops for the battlefield. Still, the Trump administration insists on "rebuilding" the USA armed forces.

"We've already seen what can come out of these ungoverned spaces". He said violence originating in Afghanistan would not stay within the borders of the country, but would go on to threaten the rest of the world.

"We could generally deploy our forces when we wanted, assemble them where we wanted, and operate how we wanted".

"We are taking a regional approach to this", he said, "because if we look at it in isolation, we'll probably have something that's lacking". "In just a few years, if we don't change the trajectory, we'll lose our qualitative and quantitative competitive advantage".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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