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By Russ Read
Secretary of Defense James Mattis admitted that the U.S. is not currently winning in Afghanistan while testifying before the Senate Committee on Armed Services Tuesday.
“We’re not winning in Afghanistan right now,” said Mattis, while being questioned by Chairman John McCain. “And we will correct this as soon as possible.”
Mattis’s comments followed McCain’s criticism for the administration’s lack of strategy in the ongoing 16-year war.
“We can’t just keep going like this,” said McCain, who noted the Senate needs a strategy in order to secure funding for the military.
McCain noted there are “problems within this administration” when it comes to determining a strategy. The chairman noted he expected a new strategy months ago, but has yet to see it. McCain told Mattis that it is not the job of Congress to provide a strategy, but that the committee will start getting more vocal in its criticism if a plan is not presented soon.
Mattis acknowledged McCain’s criticism as fair, and estimated that he will be able to brief the Senate on a new plan in July.
Technically speaking, the U.S. and NATO are engaged in a support mission in Afghanistan, with the local Afghan National Security Forces supposedly taking on most combat operations. That said, U.S. forces continue to suffer losses to a resurgent Taliban and the Islamic State Khorasan Province, which was exemplified by the deaths of three soldiers on Saturday.
Mattis said pulling U.S. forces out completely would be a mistake, and would put the U.S. at risk while being questioned by Sen. Roger Wicker.
“The problems that originate their do not stay there,” warned the secretary.
Mattis said victory in Afghanistan would be an Afghan government that is able to handle the violence inside its country with international help, which would include a residual force. He assured the committee that the majority of Afghans want us in their country.