Secretary of Defense James Mattis said the United States was not winning the war in Afghanistan in Congressional testimony on Tuesday, vowing to offer a new strategy to lawmakers this summer that will call for the deployment thousands of additional troops to the country.
“We are not winning in Afghanistan right now. And we will correct this as soon as possible,” Mattis said in testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, adding his view that the Taliban were currently “surging,” a development he said he wanted to address.
Mattis’ remarks underscore what some American commanders see as a grinding stalemate in the Afghan conflict, the longest-running war in American history, now in its seventeenth year.
In mid-May, the Pentagon was expected to present a series of options to the White House for how to proceed in the conflict, but an official announcement has not been made. While the plans varied, each would deploy somewhere between 3,000 and 5,000 new soldiers to Afghanistan.
The Army announced earlier last month that it would send 1,500 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division to Afghanistan on an advise and assist mission planned for this summer. That deployment is separate from those contemplated by Pentagon for its new strategy.
Despite internal resistance to a large troop increase, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster is reportedly pushing for a new troop surge. The new deployments would join some 29,000 private contractors and 8,400 American soldiers, who remain stationed in the country after a significant withdrawal in late 2016.
The Pentagon is now expected to convey options to the White House by mid-July.
The numbers do not paint a reassuring picture for the war. According to data released by the U.S Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, the Afghan government controls less than 60 percent of the country’s 407 districts as of Feb. 20, nearly 11 percent less than it did last year around the same time. The Taliban still controls large sections of territory, and the Islamic State has also begun to establish a foothold in the country.
Last month, a large truck bomb killed over 150 people and wounded at least 400 more in Afghan’s capital of Kabul, the deadliest attack in the city since the Taliban was ousted in 2001. The Taliban released a statement soon after the bombing denying responsibility, leading some to suspect that another group, such as the Islamic State, was responsible.
This only emphasizes the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, where such attacks have become commonplace.
To date, 2,300 Americans have been killed and over 17,000 wounded in Afghanistan since the war began 2001.
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