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Pentagon gets authority to set troop levels in Afghanistan

Pentagon gets authority to set troop levels in Afghanistan

"I retired from military service three months after sequestration took effect", Mr Mattis, a former Marine general, told the House armed services committee.

"We've got to do things differently", Mattis acknowledged, noting only that any Afghanistan decision would come "soon".

Secretary Mattis equated "winning" in Afghanistan with the Afghan government's ability to handle the enemy's level of violence, which he said will require a "residual force" of USA and allied forces to train Afghan troops and maintain high-end capabilities. Critics say delegating too much authority to the military does not shield Trump from political responsibility during battlefield setbacks and could reduce the chances for diplomats to warn of potential blowback from military decisions. The secretary has sought to reassure allies in both Europe and the Pacific in recent months that the United States still stands with them, after President Donald Trump repeatedly raised questions about whether he was committed to longstanding military alliances.

The proposed spending boost represents a more than $50 billion increase - about 10 per cent - over 2017 funding levels for the base budget, though it amounts to only about three per cent over projections envisioned by the Obama administration.

Committee Chairman Congressman Mac Thornberry and other Republicans bemoaned the increase as insufficient.

This sets the stage for USA commanders to begin sending more forces to Afghanistan, after years of reductions made in the hope that Kabul could handle internal threats on its own.

Although many Democrats on the committee agree, they worry where the money will come from, given the Trump administration's pressure to cut taxes. He said Congress and the Department of Defense should not ask the families of service members to "sacrifice any further" without an Afghanistan strategy in place.

Mr Mattis also warned that North Korea poses the most urgent threat to global peace and security, calling the regime's weapons programme a "clear and present danger" to all.

In written testimony, he said Pyongyang was increasing the pace and scope of its nuclear weapons programme, which leader Kim Jong-un wants to be capable of delivering a bomb on the US.

The reproduction of the story/photograph in any form will be liable for legal action. And he said a key to that will be the need for the U.S.to assist the Afghans in planning operations and providing aviation support while Kabul works to increase its combat air power.

Republican Senator John McCain, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, voiced his "palpable" frustration."We're now six months into this administration, we still haven't got a strategy for Afghanistan", McCain said, noting it was hard to get behind an Afghanistan budget request without knowing what the plan is.

"It is not", Dunford said.


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