U.S Defense Secretary James Mattis said in a statement late Wednesday that the U.S will not repeat the mistakes of the past and in setting new troop levels, its military will have greater agility in conducting operations in Afghanistan.
“This administration will not repeat the mistakes of the past. We cannot allow Afghanistan to once again become a launching point for attacks on our homeland or on our allies,” he said.
His statement come after Trump gave Mattis the authority to set troop levels in Afghanistan, opening the door for future troop increases.
“Yesterday afternoon (Tuesday), the president directed the Department of Defense to set troop levels in Afghanistan. This will enable our military to have greater agility to conduct operations, recognizing our military posture there is part of a broader regional context,” the statement said.
He said that thanks to the vigilance and skill of the U.S military its allies and partners, horrors on the scale of Sept. 11, 2001, have not been repeated.
“However, the danger continues to evolve and that danger requires a commitment to defeat terrorist organizations that threaten the United States, other nations, and the people of Afghanistan. For example, ISIS (Daesh) has established a branch in Khorasan Province (Nangarhar, Afghanistan), al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups remain active inside Afghanistan, and the Taliban continue to pose a challenge to the democratically elected government.
He believes that the U.S is making progress in “degrading” these groups, “but their defeat will come about only by giving our men and women on the ground the support and the authorities they need to win.”
He said: “The delegation of this authority does not in itself change the force levels for Afghanistan. Rather, it ensures the Department of Defense can facilitate our missions and align our commitment to the rapidly evolving security situation, giving our troops greater latitude to provide air power and other vital support. Our core mission will remain the same: to train, advise and assist Afghan forces. We are there to help defeat a common enemy and ensure Afghan forces can safeguard the future of their country.”
He went on to say this decision was part of a broader strategy the U.S is developing that addresses its role in Afghanistan and beyond. “We will present this to the president in the coming weeks. We will continue to work with our allies and we will ask more of them.”
He said that working with the Afghan government and their allies and partners, “we will achieve victory against the terrorists abroad, protect our borders at home, and keep America safe.”
On Tuesday, Mattis said in testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee 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.
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.