Mattis: ‘We’re not winning in Afghanistan’

Mattis: ‘We’re not winning in Afghanistan’
© Getty

Defense Secretary James Mattis told lawmakers on Tuesday that the United States is “not winning” in Afghanistan.

“We are not winning in Afghanistan right now,” Mattis said at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, “and we will correct this as soon as possible.”

Mattis also promised to brief Congress in detail on a new strategy for Afghanistan by mid-July amid blistering criticism for failing to provide one thus far.

“I hope you understand that I am not criticizing you, but there are problems within this administration,” Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainTrump hits McCain on ObamaCare vote GOP, White House start playing midterm blame game Arizona race becomes Senate GOP’s ‘firewall’ MORE (R-Ariz.), the committee's chairman, told Mattis. “I was confident that in the first 30 to 60 days we were going to have a strategy from which to start working. So all I can tell you is, that unless we get a strategy from you, you’re going to a get strategy from us. And I appreciate our wisdom and knowledge and information and all of the great things — with the exception of some to my left here — but the fact is, it’s not our job. It’s not our job. It’s yours.”

ADVERTISEMENT

McCain’s criticism comes after a rough few days for U.S. troops in Afghanistan. On Saturday, three soldiers were killed in an apparent insider attack by an Afghan soldier.

And on Monday, a U.S. convoy was hit with a roadside bomb. Troops subsequently engaged in a firefight, though none were killed in that attack.

On Monday night, Mattis told the House Armed Services Committee he would have an Afghanistan strategy “very soon.”

Under McCain’s questioning on Tuesday, Mattis specified that it would be ready in mid-July.

“I believe by mid-July we’ll be able to brief you in detail,” Mattis told McCain. “We are putting it together now.”

Mattis added that there are “actions underway” to make sure the military doesn’t “pay a price for the delay,” without elaborating.

“We recognize the need for urgency, and your criticism is fair, sir,” he said to McCain.

About 8,400 U.S. troops are currently in Afghanistan on a dual mission of training, advising and assisting Afghan troops in their fight against the Taliban and conducting counterterrorism missions against groups such as al Qaeda and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

President Trump has reportedly been weighing a request to send 3,000 to 5,000 more U.S. troops to the country to break what top generals have described as a stalemate.

--This report was updated at 11:31 a.m.