- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Trump administration’s yet-to-be released war plan for Afghanistan will likely take a wider view of the ongoing conflict, focusing on the regional implications of any U.S. escalation in the country, Defense Secretary James Mattis told lawmakers Thursday.

Testifying before the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, the former four-star general said Washington’s war policy for Afghanistan and its impact could no longer be limited to within the country’s borders.

“We’re going to have to look at a more regional strategy, one that takes into account Afghanistan as part of South Asia, not looks at it in isolation,” Mr. Mattis said. “It’s going to have to be one that marries itself to reality and the current level of support” already being provided by American and NATO troops, as well as the current capabilities of the country’s police and military, he added.

“If that means we have to keep [U.S.] advisers with them a little longer, then 9/11 taught us the cost of not paying attention to this problem. And we will do so,” the Pentagon chief said before the House subpanel.

Roughly 8,400 U.S. service members are deployed to Afghanistan, to advise Afghan forces and carry out targeted counterterrorism operations against the Taliban and other insurgent forces.

Mr. Mattis comments comes days after he told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee that “we are not winning in Afghanistan,” in one of the starkest assessments by administration officials of the 16-year war to date. Shortly after those comments to the Senate defense panel, President Trump delegated authority to the defense chief to determine the how many additional American troops will be sent into the war-torn country, to shore up the Kabul-led effort to reclaim territory lost to the Taliban and more recently the Islamic State.

Mr. Trump’s national security team is reportedly weighing a 3,000- to 5,000-man increase for the Afghan war effort. But Congress has grown impatient with the administration’s approach, with lawmakers attributing the White House’s indecisiveness to infighting among different factions inside the administration.

“I hope you understand the dilemma you are presenting us,” Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain told Mr. Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford during a Tuesday hearing of the Senate defense committee.

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