Defense Secretary James Mattis told Congress on Tuesday that the U.S. is "not winning in Afghanistan" as Taliban insurgents are battling American and Afghan troops to a "stalemate."
Mattis made the comments while testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill, reported Reuters. American troops have been in Afghanistan for 16 years, but the secretary said that he believes the Taliban forces are "surging" at the moment, stated the news agency.
"We are not winning in Afghanistan right now," Mattis told the committee. "And we will correct this as soon as possible."
As of Feb. 20, a U.S. military assessment from the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction revealed that the Afghan government controls 59.7 percent of the country's 407 districts, almost an 11 percentage-point decrease from 2016.
Committee chairman Sen. John McCain questioned Mattis on why there was not a strategy yet to reverse gains made by the Taliban and other and other groups like Al Qaeda and the Islamic State in Afghanistan, reported Politico.
"We want a strategy, and I don't think that's a hell of a lot to ask," McCain told Mattis. "We're now six months into this administration. We still haven't got a strategy for Afghanistan. It makes it hard for us to support you when we don't have a strategy. We know what the strategy was for the last eight years: Don't lose."
Mattis promised McCain and the committee that the Pentagon was putting together a strategy against the insurgents.
"I believe by mid-July, we'll be able to brief you in detail," Mattis told McCain, per Politico. "We're putting it together now and ... there are actions being taken to make certain that we don't pay a price for the delay. But we recognize the need for urgency, and your criticism is fair."
The Washington Times said the U.S. currently has 8,400 service members in Afghanistan, assisting that country's military while running targeted counterterrorism operations. The Trump administration is debating a 3,000- to 5,000-troop surge.
American troop levels in Afghanistan at one point topped 100,000 during President Barack Obama's first term in August 2010 before being reduced to current level, according to the Military Times.
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