Defense Secretary James Mattis on Afghanistan Troop Deployment: “There Is a Number That I’m Authorized To Go Up To”
What ever happened to Trump’s campaign promise to pull out our troops from Afghanistan? Now he’s sending more which even Obama refused to do.
Defense Secretary James Mattis indicated Tuesday that President Trump has authorized a ceiling for the anticipated increase in the number of troops deployed in Afghanistan, but he said he would await a plan from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff before determining “how many more we need to send in.”
“There is a number that I’m authorized to go up to,” he told reporters during an unannounced visit to Baghdad. “I’ve directed the chairman to put the plan together now. We’ve obviously been discussing this option for some time. When he brings that to me, I’ll determine how many more we need to send in.”
“It may or may not be the number that’s bandied about up until now,” Mattis added.
Unnamed U.S. officials have been cited in wire service reports as saying around 4,000 additional troops will be deployed.
Asked whether he could “fill in the blanks a little bit” about troop numbers, Mattis replied, “I’d prefer not to go into those numbers right now.”
And asked whether a figure of 3,900 was incorrect, Mattis said, “Again, I’d rather not say a number and then have to change it later on.”
“Let me look at the plan that the military brings me,” he said. “Once I see that, look at the number we have on the ground, reorganize those on the ground to align with the new strategy, and then bring in whatever gap-fillers I need.”
In his speech on Afghanistan policy Monday night, Trump said that he would not broadcast timetables for troop deployments and drawdowns.
“I’ve said it many times how counterproductive it is for the United States to announce in advance the dates we intend to begin, or end, military options,” he said. “We will not talk about numbers of troops or our plans for further military activities.”
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was also pressed Tuesday for more detail on the number of troops likely to be sent to Afghanistan.
“Don’t the American people deserve to know approximately how many more of their sons and daughters will be going back to Afghanistan in a war that’s lasted nearly 16 years?” a reporter asked him as a State Department briefing.
“I don’t want to speak for Secretary Mattis, but I think the intent is, there will be visibility to troop levels once the decision has been made,” Tillerson replied.
He said he “wholeheartedly” agreed with Trump that the U.S. must not “signal ahead what our plans are.”
“We’re not going to signal ahead an increase, a decrease, the timing of any of that. It will be driven by conditions on the ground.”
Tillerson said the only way to defeat a “nimble” and “cagey” enemy is to be “as cagey and tactical as they are.”
The U.S. currently has some 8,400 troops in Afghanistan, some involved in counterterrorism operations but most of them forming part of a roughly 13,460-strong NATO-led mission to “train, advise and assist” Afghan forces.
According to Pentagon data, 2,394 U.S. military personnel have been killed since the war in Afghanistan began in late 2001 – 2,350 until the declared end of Operation Enduring Freedom in December 2014, and 44 over the ensuing years.
Another 1,136 soldiers from other nations participating in NATO missions in the country have been killed since 2011.