WASHINGTON, June 15 (APP): US Secretary of Defense, Gen. (Retd) Jim
Mattis has said the authority granted to the Pentagon by President Trump to set troops levels in Afghanistan will enable the US military to have greater agility in conducting operations in the war-torn country.
The delegation of this authority does not in itself change the force
levels for Afghanistan, he said in a statement issued by the Pentagon. Rather, it ensures the Department of Defense can facilitate our missions and align our commitment to the rapidly evolving security situation, giving our troops greater latitude to provide air power and other vital support.
President Trump had been weighing his options following a request of
troops surge in Afghanistan by military generals in the Pentagon. With the new authority, Mattis can now take a decision to deploy additional troops.
Gen. Mattis said that the authority to decide the number of troops in
Afghanistan will provide greater agility to conduction operations, recognizing our military posture there is part of a broader regional context.
The United States currently have about 8,400 troops in Afghanistan in
addition to about 5,000 NATO forces. Current US forces are helping Afghan forces in conducing counterterrorism operations and also providing assistance to the Afghan military.
The US has lost more than 2,000 troops since the war began in 2001. In
addition to 15,000 Afghani troops, more than 3,000 Afghan civilians have also lost their lives in 2016, the deadliest year so far since the UN mission there started keeping the record in 2009.
The US Secretary noted that while the US military efforts have prevented
major attacks on American soil, danger continues to evolve and required a commitment to defeat terrorist organizations that threaten the United Sates and other nations.
Alluding to the continuing evolving threats, he said ISIS has
established a branch in Khorasan Province, al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups remain active inside Afghanistan, and the Taliban continue to pose a challenge to the democratically elected government.
This administration will not repeat the mistakes of the past. We cannot
allow Afghanistan to once again become a launching point for attacks on our homeland or on our allies, he added.
While the US forces are making progress in degrading terrorist groups in
Afghanistan, the Secretary said their defeat will come about only by giving more support and authorities to the troops on ground to win the battle.
Our core mission will remain the same: to train, advise and assist
Afghan forces. We are there to help defeat a common enemy and ensure Afghan forces can safeguard the future of their country.
He said the decision to delegate more authority to the Pentagon was part
of a broader strategy being developed to addresses the US role in Afghanistan and beyond.
We will present this to the President in the coming weeks. We will
continue to work with our allies and we will ask more of them, he added.