- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Defense Secretary James Mattis pulled no punches Tuesday when lawmakers pressed the defense chief for his assessment of the ongoing war in Afghanistan.

“We are not winning in Afghanistan,” Mr. Mattis told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, after panel chairman and Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain grilled the former four-star general on the ongoing delay of the Trump administration’s highly-anticipated Afghan war plan.

“I hope you understand the dilemma you are presenting to us,” each day the Trump administration holds off on issuing a new strategy for America’s longest war as it enters its 16th year.

Mr. Mattis acknowledged Tuesday the position White House national security strategists were putting Congress, as well as the Pentagon, as the administration continues to hammer away at a proposed strategy for Afghanistan. The White House is reportedly weighing a 3,000- to 5,000-troop surge into the country this year. Currently 8,400 American service members are serving in Afghanistan, advising Afghan forces and conducting targeted counterterrorism operations.

But the Defense Department chief noted that rushing toward a war plan for Afghanistan, without carefully weighing the complicated situation in the country facing U.S. and NATO commanders, could make the situation worse.

His comments come a day after the Pentagon identified the three U.S. soldiers killed by an Afghan soldier over the weekend in Nangarhar province in the eastern part of the country.

Army Sgts. Eric Houck and William Bays, along with Col. Dillon Baldridge attached to 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division were gunned down in the latest “green on blue” incident carried out by Afghan troops against U.S. forces. The Taliban on Tuesday claimed credit for the attack, saying the gunman was a member of the insurgent group, planted inside the Afghan military.

• Carlo Muñoz can be reached at cmunoz@washingtontimes.com.

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