U.S President Donald Trump has given Defense Secretary James Mattis the authority to set troop levels in Afghanistan, a U.S official told Reuters on Tuesday, opening the door for future troop increases.
Reuters reported that the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said no immediate decision had been made about the troop levels, which are now set at about 8,400.
The Pentagon declined to comment.
This comes after Mattis said in testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that “we are not winning in Afghanistan right now … and we will correct this as soon as possible."
Mattis also said the Taliban were "surging" at the moment, something he said he intended to address, reported Reuters.
Four months ago, the commander of the U.S and foreign forces in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson, called for a few thousand additional forces.
It is believed that between 3,000 and 5,000 troops could be added to the existing total. However, there is also talk that more authority on the ground could be given to these troops who are in a train, advise and assist capacity.
Meanwhile, Mattis said on Tuesday he would brief the committee on their new war strategy by mid-July.
Reuters reported that Senator John McCain, the chairman of the Armed Forces Committee, pressed Mattis on the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan saying the U.S had an urgent need for "a change in strategy, and an increase in resources if we are to turn the situation around."
"We recognize the need for urgency," Mattis said.
Mattis told Congress that the U.S is "not winning in Afghanistan right now," and the enemy is surging.
Asked what he hoped the situation in Afghanistan would look like a year from now, Mattis said violence would be down, government corruption would be reduced and the Taliban would be "rolled back," with less freedom of movement on the battlefield.
CBS reported Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, saying that he hoped Afghan troop casualties would be lower a year from now but said key to this was the need for the U.S to assist the Afghans in planning operations and providing aviation support while Kabul works to increase its combat air power.
McCain, however, listed the names of the three 101st Airborne Division soldiers who were killed Saturday and said, "Let's not ask these families to sacrifice any further without a strategy which we can then take and implement and help you. I'm fighting as hard as I can to increase defense spending. It's hard when we have no strategy to pursue."