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Pentagon Under Fire As Mattis Admits U.S. Is 'Not Winning' War In Afghanistan

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee in Washington on June 13.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee in Washington on June 13.

The United States is "not winning" in Afghanistan as the Taliban surges there and a new strategy to change the situation will be presented by mid-July, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told Congress on June 13.

The Pentagon came under fire from lawmakers for not completing a new strategy for the 16-year-old war, to which Mattis responded in testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee that "we recognize the need for urgency," and criticism over the lack of a new plan was "fair."

"We are not winning in Afghanistan right now. And we will correct this as soon as possible," he said, adding that the Pentagon was likely to seek a 3-5 percent increase in its budget from 2019 to 2023.

The U.S. has about 8,400 troops in Afghanistan and army officials have told Congress that they could use an infusion of forces to bolster support for the Afghan Army.

'Regional Approach'

On June 12, Mattis said a new U.S. strategy would take a "regional approach" rather than addressing the country's long-running war in isolation.

U.S. media have reported that the Defense Secretary will recommend sending another 3,000-5,000 U.S. troops to break what he has called a "stalemate" between U.S.-backed government forces and the Taliban.

Earlier this year, the Pentagon was considering a request for roughly 3,000 more troops, mainly for noncombat duties such as training and advising. That decision, however, has been stalled by the broader review by the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump of Afghan policy and a push for NATO to contribute more troops.

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 NATO participation so that it's "not all on the backs of American taxpayers."

Growing IS Threat

A resurgence by the Taliban has come amid a growing threat from Islamic State militants trying to establish a foothold in the country and the upturn in violence has led recently to the deaths of several Americans.

The war in Afghanistan has dragged on since October 2001. A U.S.-led coalition ended its combat mission against the Taliban in 2014, but they have become increasingly involved in backing up Afghan forces on the battlefield.

Mattis said in his June 13 testimony that recent strikes against pro-Syrian forces were in self-defense as the United States takes all necessary measures to protect its soldiers on the ground.

Last week the United States shot down a pro-Syrian government drone that fired toward U.S.-led coalition forces in Syria, but "hit dirt" and caused no injuries. On the same day, the U.S. hit two pro-Syrian government pickup trucks near the southern town of At Tanf.

Russia said on May 10 that it had told the United States it was unacceptable for Washington to strike pro-government forces in Syria.

With reporting by CNN, AP, and Reuters

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