Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis is blaming the Obama administration for the tense situation in Afghanistan, telling Congress on Wednesday that President Obama allowed the Taliban to regroup and recover by prematurely withdrawing support for the Afghan forces in 2014, the Washington Examiner reports.
“I believe that we pulled out forces at a time, as you know, when the violence was lower, but we pulled them out on a timeline rather than consistent with the maturation of the government and the security forces,” Mattis.
“The result was that as security declined, all the other stresses have come to bear, to include heavy casualties on the part of the Afghan forces, other nations pulled their forces out as well, and the Taliban was emboldened.”
“At one point, when we reduced our forces there, I believe in what was probably in hindsight a misguided application of our forces, we restricted them from using our air support, with some idea we would wean them off the need for it,” Mattis said. “That meant in the mountain country these troops were often fighting at a disadvantage.”
Mattis says his new strategy will be to NATO air forces to a position of strength by restoring the “high ground.”
In addition to his “refreshed, new approach,” Mattis has been given the authority to decide the troop level in Afghanistan, where Pentagon sources say he is considering adding “3,000 to 5,000 military trainers and advisers to the NATO Resolute Support mission.”