Mattis suggests larger US force in Afghanistan
WASHINGTON (PAN): A top American general has recommended the presence of 13,600 US troops in Afghanistan after 2014, when the local forces are to take control of the country’s security. At the same time, he said no decision has been made in this regard yet.
“The post-2014 force that decision I know has not been made yet. It's still under consideration. I have made my recommendation … That recommendation is for 13,600 U.S. forces,” said General James Mattis, the Central Command head.
He told members of the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee during a Congressional hearing on Tuesday no decision had been made on the number of NATO troops in Afghanistan after 2014, but his expectation would be 50 percent of the US forces.
Mattis believed the Afghan mission was proceeding well. “The Afghan campaign is on track. It is obviously a combination of progress and violence, but when it comes down to the Afghan national security forces, they are proving themselves capable.
“Obviously, when we were looking at the drawdown numbers, there was a certain amount of forecasting that the Afghan forces would be capable,” he said in response to a query from Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Since January 1, the US has lost four troops in action in Afghanistan. In the same period, the Afghan forces have lost 198 killed. “There can be no longer any doubt -- it's not opinion; it's now a fact -- the Afghans are doing the bulk of the fighting, and they are doing it with our support,” he remarked.
Responding to another question, Mattis said “trust deficit” continued to exit between Afghanistan and Pakistan. There was dissatisfaction that had been articulated by the Afghans about the havens on the Pakistan side of the border, he said, acknowledging some terrorists used the Afghan side of the border to attack Pakistan.
The Afghan-Pak relations are imperfect right now, according to Mattis, who said NATO was doing its bit to put them in the right direction right, getting the two sides to talk and work together.
Mattis stressed that Pakistan must play a constructive role if Afghanistan was to achieve long-term stability. “In Pakistan we face a confluence of issues that challenge the Pakistan government and our ability to provide assistance.”
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