Monday, February 19, 2018 | ePaper

We're not winning in Afghanistan: Mattis

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AP, Washington :
Facing sharp criticisms from impatient senators, Defense Secretary James Mattis on Tuesday agreed that "we are not winning in Afghanistan" and promised a new strategy by mid-July. Mattis also said that even victory in America's longest war would likely mean a long-term U.S. troop presence.
"We are not winning in Afghanistan right now. And we will correct this as soon as possible," Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee. "I believe by mid-July we will be able to brief you in detail."
As candidate in 2016, President Trump promised a full review of the war in Afghanistan and a new strategy. The Pentagon has made clear it wants "thousands" of additional troops, on top of the roughly 8,400 U.S. forces and about another 7,000 from NATO allies.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the panel's chairman, warned sharply that lawmakers' patience with the Trump administration's handling of Afghanistan was not infinite and that a plan was overdue.
"I was confident that within the first 30 to 60 days we would have a strategy from which to start working," McCain said, adding, "unless we get a strategy from you, you're going to get a strategy from us."
The Arizona Republican warned Mattis that lawmakers "are going to start getting more vocal in our criticism of not having a strategy for Afghanistan." Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., asked Mattis to "define for us what winning in Afghanistan means" - a question U.S. policymakers have wrestled with since the Oct. 7, 2001, invasion.
"What does winning look like?" Mattis replied. "The Afghan government - with international help - will be able to handle the violence and drive it down to a level that local security forces can handle it."
Still, "With our allies, it would probably require residual force doing training and maintaining the high-end capability" to take out security threats, Mattis said. "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."

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