WASHINGTON (AFP) – Pentagon chief Jim Mattis told exasperated lawmakers Tuesday that America still is “not winning” in Afghanistan, as US military commanders push for additional troops to help stabilize the country s security crisis.
Mattis s latest assessment comes nearly 16 years after the US-led invasion of Afghanistan and amid a war that continues to claim the lives of US troops each year — and those of thousands of local forces and civilians.
The “Taliban had a good year last year, they are trying to have a good one this year,” Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee at a hearing about the Pentagon s budget.
“Right now I believe the enemy is surging.”
US military commanders, who saw fragile security gains eroded under Obama-era troop draw-downs, have been pushing for a new strategy that could see thousands of additional soldiers deploy to Afghanistan to help train and advise beleaguered Afghan partners.
Media reports have said Mattis is considering asking for 3,000 to 5,000 additional US and NATO troops, but the defense chief has said little on the matter.
In February, General John Nicholson, who commands NATO forces in Afghanistan, warned that he needs “a few thousand” more troops to reverse what he called a stalemate.
Despite months of expectation that a new Afghanistan strategy announcement is imminent, Mattis said this would not be ready before mid-July.
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.