Mattis Discusses Afghanistan Drawdown

US Central Command boss Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that he has recommended leaving some 13,600 US troops in Afghanistan after 2014 when NATO’s combat mission there concludes. These troops would train and advise Afghan security forces. Although Mattis said he has no control over how many NATO forces would remain in theater following the end-of-2014 withdrawal deadline for combat forces, he anticipates the number would be “roughly 50 percent” of what the United States provides. During February’s State of the Union address, President Obama pledged to bring home an additional 34,000 US troops from Afghanistan over the next year as part of the phased drawdown. “I support the reduction of 34,000 as long as the pace left them there through this fighting season, which it did,” said Mattis during the March 5 hearing. Mattis said Afghan security forces now control 87 percent of the country. “Since Jan. 1, we have lost four US troops. In that same period, Afghan security forces have lost 198,” said Mattis. “There is no longer any doubt the Afghans are doing the bulk of the fighting.” (Mattis’ prepared testimony)