U.S. Defense Secretary, Jim Mattis told Congress that the Afghanistan security forces are fully engaged in combat operations for the first time during the 16-year-old war and are suffering fewer casualties as they continue to improve their competence on the battlefield.
“For the first time in this long fight, all six Afghan military corps have engaged in offensive operations,” Mattis said in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee. “During these recent months, there have been fewer civilian casualties as a result of coalition operations.”
Mattis sought to assure lawmakers that President Donald Trump’s new strategy for Afghanistan represents the best approach for winning America’s longest war.
“Violence and progress in Afghanistan continue to coexist,” said Mattis. “But the uncertainty in the region about the NATO campaign has been replaced by certainty due to the implementation of President Trump’s new South Asia strategy.”
The U.S. has about 11,000 troops in Afghanistan alongside about 6,800 troops from NATO and coalition partners, Mattis disclosed. And he said the more than 3,000 additional U.S. troops going there would “reinforce” the coalition’s advisory role to Afghanistan forces.
But Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said it’s currently a stalemate in Afghanistan.
“We’re not at a point where we can bring a successful political solution to the war,” Dunford said.
In Afghanistan, the U.S. is changing the role of American service members to provide more support for the Afghan national defense and security forces. There are now about 320,000 Afghan national security forces serving in the war-torn nation.