Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Wednesday he now has the authority to send several thousand more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, adding that a plan on how and when to deploy them should be ready next month.
Mattis said President Donald Trump on Tuesday “delegated to me the authority to set troop levels in Afghanistan. We will define the way ahead, and I will set the military commitment” in concert with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson under a new strategy to shore up the Afghan defense forces and the Kabul government.
Mattis will soon present the new strategy to Trump. “I’m talking within weeks, not months,” he said. He also indicated that a major priority in the coming deployment would be to strengthen the air arm of the estimated 9,800 U.S. troops now in Afghanistan.
In testimony to the defense subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Mattis did not put a number on how many additional U.S. troops would deploy to Afghanistan, but Army Gen. John Nicholson, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, has a long-standing request for 3,000 to 5,000.