Mattis blames Congress for poor state of US combat readiness


Mattis told the House Armed Services Committee that Congress hurts military readiness by using continuing resolutions to fund the Department of Defense rather than passing a full budget and not repealing sequestration. "And we will correct this as soon as possible", Mattis said in testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee.The Afghan government was assessed by the U.S. military to control or influence just 59.7 percent of Afghanistan's 407 districts as of February 20, a almost 11 percentage-point decrease from the same time in 2016, according to data released by the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

On hearing of the testimony to lawmakers on Pentagon budget, Mattis said North Korea is increasing the pace and scope of its nuclear weapons program with acuity and Kim Jong-Un has stated that one day they will be capable of delivering a bomb on the US.

Currently, the USA has 9,000 troops in Afghanistan. We still haven't got a strategy for Afghanistan.

Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee, Mattis sought congressional approval to start a new round of base closings in 2021.

At the same time, McCain said the US just "can't keep going like this" without having a workable strategy on Afghanistan. "We know what the strategy was for the past eight years: Don't lose".

The defense secretary also was asked what winning looked like in Afghanistan.

He added: "We are not winning in Afghanistan right now".

Mattis says, "Mr. Putin has chosen to be a strategic competitor".

The US-led occupying force officially announced to end its combat operations against the Taliban in the country at the end of 2014, and its current mission is to "train, advise, and assist" Afghan troops.

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Rumors of a USA military build-up in Afghanistan have circulated around Capitol Hill for months, since the commander of United States Forces Afghanistan in February testified that several thousand more troops will be needed to break the "stalemate" in the fight against terrorist groups there.

"We're now six months into this administration, we still haven't got a strategy for Afghanistan", McCain said, noting it was hard to get behind an Afghanistan budget request without knowing what the plan is.

Three U.S. soldiers were killed and another wounded on Saturday when they were attacked by an Afghan soldiers, who was then killed.

Congress must take into account external factors that influence budget deliberations, Mattis said.

The Taliban "had a good year last year", Mattis said, referencing gains made by the militant group that has been battling USA -led troops in Afghanistan since 2001.

"We must be willing and able to tap into commercial research, recognize its military potential, and develop new capabilities and the operational and organizational constructs to employ them faster than our competitors".

Any increase of several thousand troops would leave American forces in Afghanistan well below their 2011 peak of more than 100,000 troops.

In some cases, Afghan security forces have been forced to abandon more scattered and rural bases, and the government can claim to control or influence only 57% of the country, according to USA military estimates earlier this year.