Newspaper: Agreement reached with generals on Afghanistan, claims Trump


U.S. Gen. John Nicholson, the top commander of American and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces in Afghanistan, told United States lawmakers in February that coalition forces are facing a "stalemate" in Afghanistan, echoing the most recent assessment by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), a United States watchdog agency. The U.S. still has almost 10,000 troops in Afghanistan as military advisers and to conduct counter-terrorism operations.

The president has expressed frustration at the lack of progress in Afghanistan, and his administration so far has struggled to articulate a strategy for moving forward.

"The president had to make strategic decisions", Mattis said.

In the wake of the September 11 attacks, the United States led an invasion of the country to topple the Taliban from power and eliminate a "safe haven" for al Qaeda.

The Afghan government only controls half of the country and is beset by endemic corruption and infighting. US generals have described the conflict as a "stalemate".

Secretary Mattis refused to explicitly tell reporters what military action the president is going to take in Afghanistan, saying, "Once [President Trump] announces what the strategy is, we can get more precise on Afghanistan troop levels, what we're going to do with that".

The difficulty in reaching a decision was compounded, the two officials said, by the wide range of conflicting options Trump received, both in formal briefings, meetings and phone calls and from news and commentary on television and social media.

He said the deliberations, including talks at the Camp David presidential retreat on Friday, were done properly.

USA commanders have said extra troops could be used to help train and advise Afghan units to make them a more effective fighting force in hopes of breaking what the US commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Nicholson, has termed a "stalemate".

"This strategy is certainly overdue, well beyond when the administration said it would be ready", he told The National.

"The president has made a decision". The expectation had been that he would agree to a modest boost in the USA war effort, while also addressing broader political, economic and regional issues.

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Trump will be making the third prime-time address of his seven-month-old presidency after a particularly bruising week in which he was widely criticised for blaming both white nationalists and counter-protesters for violence at a Virginia rally this month organized by neo-Nazis and white supremacists.

He said that the enemies have only one option to bring an end to the war they fight on behalf of neighboring countries and to stop the killing of Afghan civilians. Another option Mattis has mentioned is to replace United States troops with private contractors.

Key quote: "The President's mere announcement of a ban on transgender military service harms all Americans by sending a message that fosters and encourages prejudice, inconsistent with our core national values".

An estimated 9,800 American troops are in Afghanistan, mostly assigned to an worldwide force of about 13,000 assisting the Afghan military. In June he gave Mattis the power to increase troop numbers above the estimated 8,400 that have been in the country - close to 4,000 more, according to reports.

Americans are now helping the Afghan Army launch a new special operations corps. Committing more troops would also significantly affect the United State's relationship with Pakistan.

The officer was not authorized to discuss the details publicly so spoke on condition of anonymity.

Pulling out American forces "would be a total failure", Col. Abdul Mahfuz, the Afghan intelligence agency chief for Qarahbagh, north of Kabul, said Saturday.

"What the USA has achieved with over 100,000 troops on the ground in the past 15 years", he said talking to Anadolu Agency.

The review, which was led by National Security Adviser Lt. Gen H.R. McMaster, looked at whether several thousand more troops should be deployed to the country, USA defense officials told NBC News last month.

Speaking through an interpreter, he added that operations by Afghan and US special operations forces have been very effective, and that "the presence of USA military personnel is felt and considered a positive step for peace".