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Mattis to Discuss Afghan War Needs 04/24 06:14
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis arrived unannounced in Afghanistan on
Monday to assess America's longest war as the Trump administration weighs
sending more troops.
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis arrived
unannounced in Afghanistan on Monday to assess America's longest war as the
Trump administration weighs sending more troops.
Kabul was the final stop on a six-nation, weeklong tour Mattis said was
intended to bolster relations with allies and partners and to get an update on
the stalemated conflict in Afghanistan. He is the first member of President
Donald Trump's Cabinet to visit Afghanistan.
Gen. John Nicholson, the top American commander in Kabul, recently told
Congress that he needs a few thousand more troops to keep Afghan security
forces on track to eventually handling the Taliban insurgency on their own.
As part of the administration's review of Afghan policy, Trump's national
security adviser, Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, visited Kabul last week to
consult with Nicholson and with Afghan officials.
McMaster said in a TV interview after returning to Washington that the U.S.
in recent years has scaled back its military effort against the Taliban. "Our
enemy sensed that and they have redoubled their efforts, and it's time for us,
alongside our Afghan partners, to respond," he said.
Among the questions facing the administration is how to maintain pressure on
a resilient Taliban and keep up counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan
without prolonging a stalemate that is costing U.S. taxpayers billions of
dollars a year.
The war began in October 2001. The U.S. has about 9,800 troops in
Afghanistan. They ended their combat mission against the Taliban in 2014 but
are increasingly involved in backing up Afghan forces on the battlefield.
Mattis was visiting just days after a bloody Taliban attack that killed well
over 100 Afghans on a base in the country's north. The Taliban also controls
key parts of Helmand province in the south. Officials say nearly a dozen of the
attackers wore army uniforms and rode in military vehicles, raising concerns of
help from inside the compound.
A senior American military official in Kabul said Monday that it appears
likely the attack was either carried out by or planned by a Pakistan-based
Taliban faction known as the Haqqani network, which is a U.S.
government-designated terrorist organization. The official, who spoke on
condition of anonymity in order to discuss intelligence matters, said it likely
took four to six months to plan the attack. He said it also was likely that the
attackers had help in advance from Afghan troops on the base.
The official said the latest Afghan estimate of 144 Afghan soldiers killed
is likely to rise.
Afghan officials said earlier that the country's army chief and the defense
minister resigned following the weekend Taliban attack.
Two officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not
authorized to talk to the media. The president's official Twitter account also
confirmed the resignations.
In addition to the Taliban insurgency, Afghanistan also is fighting to
extinguish a small but troublesome presence in Nangarhar province of militants
affiliated with the Islamic State group.
Two weeks ago, Nicholson created a stir by ordering an attack on an IS
stronghold in Nangarhar using the military's most powerful non-nuclear bomb,
the so-called "mother of all bombs."
Mattis has declined to disclose details of damage done by that bombing,
which former Afghan President Hamid Karzai has called an "atrocity."
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