Pentagon gets authority to set troop levels in Afghanistan

Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday that he will provide details on a new strategy for the war in mid-July.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis smiles at photographers before he testifies at a House Armed Services Committee hearing on the defense budget for the 2018 budget year, on Capitol Hill, Monday in Washington.

Mattis said the Taliban were "surging" and that the extremist group's progress had to be curtailed.

Some US officials have questioned the benefit of sending more troops to Afghanistan because any politically palatable number would not be enough to turn the tide, much less create stability and security.

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Monday there was no indication that Russian Federation wanted a positive relationship with the United States, saying it had chosen to be a strategic competitor.

The broader regional USA strategy for Afghanistan remains unclear.

"We recognize the need for urgency", Mattis replied, who told lawmakers he is now crafting a new military strategy that he will reveal by mid-July.

Mattis, a Trump appointee, placed the blame on Congress for what he considers to be an unprepared American fighting force, observing that short-term budget measures and a current law that limits military spending are placing U.S. troops at risk.

Mattis said the U.S.is not winning the war there and that the military is taking steps to make certain America doesn't pay a price for the delay in the new plan. "I don't think that's a helluva lot to ask".

Gen. John Nicholson, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, and Gen. Joseph Votel, his direct superior at U.S. Central Command, have endorsed a deployment of a "few thousand" more troops to Afghanistan in an effort to break what Pentagon officials call a "stalemate" there.

Three US soldiers were killed and another wounded on Saturday when they were attacked by an Afghan soldiers, who was then killed. And two U.S. Army Rangers died in a April 27 raid on an IS compound in eastern Afghanistan.

Their deaths came just days after a US Army special forces soldier was also killed in the region.

Joseph Dunford, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, added that the United States had an adversarial relationship with Russian Federation.

Additionally, Mattis and Dunford said one of their priorities in Afghanistan is to reduce Afghan casualties by increasing USA fire and air support for the fledgling Afghan ground forces.

The Afghanistan war has been dragging on since October 2001, and the US-led coalition ended their combat mission against the Taliban in 2014 but they are increasingly involved in backing up Afghan forces on the battlefield.

"Four years later, I returned to the Department [of Defense], and I have been shocked by what I've seen about our readiness to fight..." It makes it hard for us to support you when we don't have a strategy.

"It has blocked new programs, prevented service growth, stalled industry initiative and placed troops at greater risk", Mattis said as he urged the panel to do away with the Budget Control Act of 2011.

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