Trump gives Pentagon ability to set Afghan troops

 15 Jun 2017 - 13:24

Trump gives Pentagon ability to set Afghan troops

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WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump has delegated the authority to modify the U.S.'s troop presence in Afghanistan to the Pentagon, its chief confirmed Wednesday.

The announcement comes one day after Defense Secretary James Mattis acknowledged the U.S. is "not winning" in Afghanistan, nearly 16 years after it embarked on a campaign to oust the Taliban from that country. 

"We cannot allow Afghanistan to once again become a launching point for attacks on our homeland or on our allies," Mattis said in a statement announcing the change to his authorities. "We are making progress in degrading these groups, but their defeat will come about only by giving our men and women on the ground the support and the authorities they need to win."

The retired Marine Corps general pointed to the rise of IS, and said al-Qaeda and other extremist groups "remain active" in the country while the Taliban remains a threat to the U.S.-backed central government in Kabul. 

The U.S. maintains a force posture in the country of approxiumately 8,400 troops, down from a high in 2011 of about 100,000. 

Mattis said the delegation of authority does not necessarily mean the U.S. military footprint will increase, arguing it gives the Pentagon needed flexibility in adjusting to battlefield conditions. 

"Our core mission will remain the same: to train, advise and assist Afghan forces," he said.