President Donald Trump has has given the Pentagon unilateral authority to set troop levels in Afghanistan, the WSJ and Reuters reported overnight, clearing the way for the military to intensify its fight against the Taliban and opening the door for future troop increases requested by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. While no immediate decision had been made about the troop levels, which are now set at about 8,400, the Pentagon is currently weighing plans to send between 3,000 and 5,000 additional troops.
The news comes after Mattis said in testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee that “We are not winning in Afghanistan right now. And we will correct this as soon as possible.” Mattis said the Taliban were “surging” at the moment, something he said he intended to address.
The decision is similar to one announced in April that applied to U. S. troop levels in Iraq and Syria, and came as Mattis warned Congress the U. S.-backed Afghan forces were not beating the Taliban despite more than 15 years of war. After the official announcement control over troop decisions to the Pentagon, expected to be announced on Wednesday, sets the stage for U. S. commanders to decide to reverse course in Afghanistan and begin sending more forces to the country after years of reductions in the hope that Kabul could handle internal threats on its own, the WSJ notes.
According to the WSJ, the White House decision to cede authority to Mr. Mattis is another reflection of Mr. Trump’s push to give the military wide latitude around the world. The White House has already given the Pentagon more power to carry out strikes in Yemen and Somalia. Mr. Trump removed a cap on troop levels in Iraq. And he approved Pentagon plans to send more U. S. troops and firepower into Syria to fight Islamic State.
This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jun 14, 2017.