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DoD setting troop levels in Afghanistan enables agility, Mattis says

WASHINGTON, 16 June 2017 — Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Wednesday
that President Donald J. Trump’s directive for the Defense Department to set troop
levels in Afghanistan will enable the U.S. military to have greater agility to conduct
operations, recognizing that the military posture there is part of a broader regional

“Thanks to the vigilance and skill of the U.S. military and our many allies and partners,
horrors on the scale of Sept. 11, 2001, have not been repeated on our shores,” Mattis
said in a written statement released on Wednesday.

“However,” he continued, “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.”

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has established a branch in Afghanistan, al-Qaida
and other terrorist groups remain active inside Afghanistan, and the Taliban continues
to pose a challenge to the democratically-elected government there.

“This administration will not repeat the mistakes of the past,” he said. “We cannot
allow Afghanistan to once again become a launching point for attacks on our
homeland or on our allies.”


The U.S. and partner nations have made progress in weakening these groups, Mattis
said, but their ultimate defeat will come about “only by giving our men and women on
the ground the support and the authorities they need to win.”

The secretary said that the delegation of authority for setting troop levels does not in
itself change the force levels for Afghanistan. Rather, he explained, it ensures that the
Defense Department can facilitate its missions and align its commitment to the rapidly
evolving security situation, giving 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,” he
said. “We are there to help defeat a common enemy and ensure Afghan forces can
safeguard the future of their country.”

The decision is part of a broader developing strategy that addresses the U.S. role in
Afghanistan and beyond, Mattis said. “We will present this to the president in the
coming weeks,” he added. “We will continue to work with our allies, and we will ask
more of them. Working with the Afghan government and our allies and partners, we
will achieve victory against the terrorists abroad, protect our borders at home, and
keep America safe.”