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Mattis 'shocked' by state of combat readiness

Mattis 'shocked' by state of combat readiness”

Mattis's remarks come months after the Trump administration pledged a new direction in the war-stricken country and weeks since reports of a new USA troop surge there began circulating in Washington.

US Defense Secretary James Mattis has acknowledged that the United States is "not winning" in the war in Afghanistan.

Since April, six USA servicemembers have been killed in eastern Afghanistan, where the United States is working with Afghan forces to conduct counterterrorism operations against the Taliban and Islamic State forces there.

Mattis made the comments before the Senate Armed Services Committee, where Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) questioned why the Donald Trump administration has yet to present a new strategy for the conflict.

"We are not winning in Afghanistan", Mattis he told lawmakers.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that anything less than 3 percent growth annually could lead to America falling behind near-peer competitors such as China or Russian Federation.

There are now about 8,400 USA troops devoted to Operation Resolute Support in Afghanistan, which encompasses both US counter terrorism forces to fight the ISIS and the Taliban as well as the effort to train, advise and assist Afghan forces in a separate effort.

"We just lost three fearless Americans", McCain said, Stars and Stripes reported. "We're now six months into this administration".

The Republican lawmaker also noted that three American soldiers were killed over the weekend due to new violence in Afghanistan.

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"In just a few years, if we don't change the trajectory, we will lose our qualitative and our quantitative competitive advantage", Dunford said, warning "the consequences will be profound".

Current and former USA officials say discussions revolve around adding 3,000 to 5,000 troops.

"It makes it hard for us to support you when we don't have a strategy", McCain said. "And I think the chairman's point is it's very late in the game and the ability for us just institutionally to rewrite a budget to reallocate resources between defense and non-defense and increase defense spending without any guideline or framework from the administration - it's not impossible, but it is very hard".

Mattis said that despite 16 years of fighting in the middle eastern country, the U.S./Afghan coalition forces have arrived at little more than a "stalemate". "We are putting it together now and there are actions being taken to make certain we don't pay a price for the delay".

The remarks were a blunt reminder of the gloom underscoring U.S. military assessments of the war between the US-backed Afghan government and the Islamist militant group, classified by United States commanders as a "stalemate" despite nearly 16 years of fighting. It is unclear, however, how long it could take for Afghan forces to mature enough to match the type of support offered by USA forces.

About 8,500 US troops and another 5,000 other foreign allies are still stationed in Afghanistan, even though the official combat mission there ended in 2014.

Mattis said the Taliban were "surging" at the moment, something he said he meant to address. "Four years later, I've returned to the department, and I have been shocked by what I have seen about our readiness to fight". "It took us years to get into this situation".

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain saved his sharpest barbs for what he said was the Trump administration's inability to produce a new war plan for Afghanistan.



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