Pentagon to present new Afghanistan strategy within weeks: U.S. defense chief

U.S. Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis speaks at a press conference at the Australia United States Ministerial Consultations at Gover

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says President Donald Trump has given him the authority to determine USA troop levels in Afghanistan.

"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", Mr Mattis said.

Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, provide testimony on the Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Budget Request from the Department of Defense to members of the Senate Committee on Armed Services during a hearing in the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington D.C., June 13, 2017.

Trump came into office saying he meant to give his generals more leeway, and Mattis has said the new authority will help him improve management of the war.

In the short term, Mr Mattis and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, said extra U.S. troops sent to the country would provide more fire and air support to the Afghans.

"The White House has done the same that it did with Iraq and Syria, which is to grant the secretary of defense the authority to set troop levels", the official said, referring to recent adjustments Trump has approved for the fight against Daesh (the so-called IS) in those two countries. President Trump still has not been presented with an Afghanistan strategy.

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"I don't have anything I can comment on that right now". However, Mattis also revealed that he hasn't yet decided whether to send in more troops.

Hours later, Mattis issued a written statement that provided no further details on Trump's decision but said counterterrorism efforts in Afghanistan are "making progress in degrading" groups like al-Qaida and the Islamic State.

US generals have recently recommended adding as many as 5,000 troops.

Currently, there are about 8,400 US troops and another 5,000 forces of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) on the ground in Afghanistan to train and assist the Afghan forces against the Taliban, and conduct counter-terrorism missions. The decision, however, was ultimately controversial because with the announced surge, Obama also gave a timeline for when USA forces would begin withdrawing from the country. That decision, however, stalled amid the administration's Afghan review and a push for North Atlantic Treaty Organisation to contribute more troops.

He added: "We are not winning in Afghanistan right now". We don't know; campaign-trail Trump would only give word salad-esque answers on the subject, and the rhetoric has only gotten muddier since.

USA and coalition forces are working the support mission, and Afghan forces will receive the air support that was in short supply, the secretary said. "We will correct this as soon as possible", he said.

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