Mattis: Trump has delegated decisions on Afghan troop levels

Trump lets Pentagon set Afghanistan troop levels

US President Donald Trump has given Defence Secretary James Mattis the authority to determine troop levels in Afghanistan, media reports said on Wednesday, paving the way for sending more American forces to the war-torn country. It's a break from past practice that Mattis said will enable him to more effectively manage the war effort. In April, the president gave Mattis authority to set USA troop levels in Iraq and Syria.

Mattis's latest assessment comes almost 16 years after the US-led invasion of Afghanistan and amid a war that continues to claim the lives of USA troops each year - and those of thousands of local forces and civilians.

When asked whether he expected to increase US troop levels in Afghanistan to anywhere near USA 2011 peak of about 100,000 troops, Mattis dismisses the chances.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official told AFP 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.

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In another congressional hearing on Tuesday, Mattis said that United States is still "not winning" the longest US war in Afghanistan.

Other officials had disclosed the decision Tuesday evening.

The new admission from the retired Marine Corps four-star general comes as Congress grows increasingly impatient for a new strategy from the Trump administration for America's longest war as Taliban insurgents continue to regain ground and increase power, including launching coordinated attacks on American troops and journalists in recent weeks.

Trump has said very little about his intentions in Afghanistan. Throughout his tenure, Obama's White House reviewed even small changes in USA troop levels in Afghanistan.

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The Taliban controls more territory in Afghanistan than at any point after the 2001 USA -led intervention that toppled the Taliban government, which harbored al Qaeda, the architects of 9/11 terror attacks.

"We can not allow Afghanistan to once again become a launching point for attacks on our homeland or on our allies", Mattis said. These forces would help the fledgling Afghan military regain parts of the country that have fallen to the Taleban since USA forces ended their combat mission there in 2014.

"This decision is part of a broader strategy we are developing that addresses our role in Afghanistan and beyond".

The Pentagon had considered a request for roughly 3,000 more troops, mainly for training and advising. That decision, however, has been stalled by the broader administration review of Afghan policy and a push for North Atlantic Treaty Organisation to contribute more troops.

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There are around 8,400 USA troops in Afghanistan and roughly 5,000 more North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces.

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