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Mattis And Tillerson Mum On Troop Level Increase

Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson both declined to say how many more troops will be deployed in Afghanistan after President Donald Trump's announcement Monday night of his decision to increase troops levels in the country.

ABC News reported Mattis as saying at a press conference in Baghdad that: "I'd prefer not to go into those numbers right now."

"There is a number that I'm authorized to go up to," he acknowledged.

Mattis said he and Gen Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will first put together a plan before announcing the number of additional forces. Once that plan is public, "there will be visibility to troop levels," Tillerson said at a State Department press briefing.

But those numbers will be dictated by conditions on the ground, both men said, and not on political timelines, ABC reported.

"We've obviously been discussing this option for some time," Mattis said.

"I'll look at the number we have on the ground, reorganize those on the ground to align with the new strategy and bring whatever gap fillers I need."

ABC reported that Tillerson meanwhile defended the non-disclosure stance as an important tactic, arguing that the US needs to be "as cagey and tactical" as the Taliban and other enemy groups.

"We have not been fighting that way," he added.

In June, Trump gave Mattis the authority to set troop levels in Afghanistan. Mattis reportedly favors sending in as many as 4,000 additional US forces to push back against gains made by the Taliban and Daesh.

Trump on Monday said that the US will forego a timetable for its military operations in Afghanistan and instead let "conditions on the ground" guide their tactics.

Dunford meanwhile called Trump's strategy "a new approach to Afghanistan and the region."

"Our Afghan partners know that our commitment is strong and enduring," Dunford said in a statement.

"Our future presence will be based on conditions and not arbitrary timelines. This new strategy means the Taliban cannot win militarily. Now is the time to renounce violence and reconcile. A peaceful, stable Afghanistan is victory for the Afghan people and the goal of the coalition."

"We believe – we already know – there are certain moderate elements of the Taliban who we think are going to be ready and want to help develop a way forward," he said, adding later that the US no longer believes Afghanistan needs to have a democratic government, as long as it meets America's security needs.

"Afghanistan and the Taliban representatives need to sit down and sort this out. It's not for the US to tell them it must be this particular model, it must be under these conditions," he said. Although previous administrations have tried to push democracy in other countries, he said, "In a lot of places, it doesn't work."

Trump said in his speech on Monday that his original instinct was to pull troops out of Afghanistan but that, after taking office and consulting with military leaders, he changed his views.

He warned Monday against a hasty withdrawal that would allow terrorists safe haven, and he criticized the US troop withdrawal from Iraq, completed in 2011, which Trump said led to the rise of Daesh.

He also chastised Pakistan for harboring terrorist groups, saying the country has "much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan."

[Source: By Shabir Ahmadi, Tolo News, Kabul, 23Aug17]

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War in Afghanistan & Iraq
small logoThis document has been published on 24Aug17 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.