Trump hands to Pentagon troop level decisions on Afghanistan

Trump lets Pentagon set Afghanistan troop levels

US Defense chief say he has power to set Afghan troop levels

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

In testimony before a Senate panel, Mattis said he had received the authority from President Donald Trump to set US troop levels in Afghanistan, which will allow him to more effectively manage the war effort.

"I would say that the reason we have not been attacked over many years from where the 9/11 attack originated is heavily due to the sacrifices that we have made over years as we have kept the enemy on the back foot", Mattis said.

"I believe that we pulled out forces at a time, as you know, when the violence was lower, but we pulled them out on a timeline rather than consistent with the maturation of the government and the security forces", Mattis said.

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"It's going to be an era of frequent skirmishing and it's going to require a change in our approach from the last several years if we're to get it to that position", Mr Mattis said.

"I don't have anything I can comment on that right now".

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Earlier, Mattis told lawmakers that he would present Trump with a new USA military strategy for Afghanistan by mid-July. And two U.S. Army Rangers died in a April 27 raid on an IS compound in eastern Afghanistan. The State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development could theoretically help round out such a strategy, but they are intentionally understaffed at present and not under the Pentagon's authority in the first place.

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Earlier this year, the Pentagon was considering a request for roughly 3,000 more troops, mainly for noncombat duties such as training and advising.

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. 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. The increased fight has led to a recent string of American deaths. Mattis said there is a role for the State Department in putting diplomatic and economic pressure on these countries. "It's hard for them to conduct external operations out of that former stronghold when they are just trying to hang onto their own lives and avoid us". Throughout his administration and that of his predecessor, Obama's White House closely controlled US troop levels in Afghanistan.

"It is not", Dunford said.

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