WASHINGTON - The Associated Press is quoting an anonymous Trump administration official as saying the Pentagon will send almost 4,000 additional American forces to Afghanistan to assist the South Asian nation in its fight against a renascent Taliban insurgency.
That number is similar to previous reports from other Trump administration officials.
A Pentagon spokesman, however, told the Reuters news agency when asked about the AP story that “no decisions have been made” about deploying the additional troops.
The AP report said Defense Secretary Jim Mattis could make the announcement about deploying the troops as early as next week.
Mattis to set troop levels
A U.S. official said earlier this week that U.S. President Donald Trump has given Mattis the authority to set troop levels in Afghanistan.
Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday the U.S. is not gaining in the fight to stabilize Afghanistan, and he vowed to present a strategy to Congress “by mid-July.”
The defense secretary also acknowledged that the Trump administration is in a “strategy free time” concerning Afghanistan.
He called on Congress to provide the Pentagon with a budget, “not a continuing resolution” that is “passed on time,” in order to push the U.S. military through readiness shortfalls while maintaining a support role in two wars.
Congress needs to see a plan
Republican Senator John McCain, the chairman of the committee, said Congress needs to see a plan on how the U.S. can move forward in Afghanistan.
Mattis equated winning in Afghanistan with the Afghan government’s ability to handle the enemy’s level of violence, which he said will require a “residual force” of U.S. and allied forces to train Afghan troops and maintain high-end capabilities.
The defense secretary said the U.S. cannot quit on Afghanistan because problems that threaten the U.S. and its economy arise out of “ungoverned spaces.”
Carla Babb contributed to this report.