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US to make Afghanistan troop announcement in weeks: Mattis

WASHINGTON: Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Wednesday he will present a new US military strategy for Afghanistan, along with adjusted troop numbers, in the coming weeks to President Donald Trump.

American military commanders in Afghanistan and the surrounding region have requested thousands of additional boots on the ground for months to boost the NATO troop presence there.

“Together in the interagency, we will define the way ahead and I will set a US military commitment consistent with the commander in chief’s strategic directions and his foreign policy, as dictated by Secretary of State Tillerson,” Mattis told lawmakers during a hearing at the Senate Appropriations Committee.

“The revised Afghanistan strategy with the new approach will be presented to the president for his approval in the coming weeks.”

His remarks came a day after Trump granted the Pentagon authority to set troop levels in Afghanistan, currently at around 8,400.

Mattis said the decision would come in consultation with other US government agencies in a more comprehensive approach to the conflict.

Prior to the White House decision, Mattis had warned that the Taliban was surging — having claimed a series of deadly attacks, including against Afghan military bases and positions — and that America still was “not winning” in the country nearly 16 years after the US-led invasion there.

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