NBC News — Defense Secretary Jim Mattis made an unannounced trip to Afghanistan to meet with Afghan leaders and U.S. military officials Monday, taking a fresh look at a 15-year war where he served during its first optimistic months.
Mattis’ visit capped a six-country tour through the Middle East, his first as secretary of defense, and comes as the Trump administration considers additional troops to fight the Taliban and defeat ISIS across the region.
His top commander in the country, Gen. John Nicholson, has told Congress he believes the war is at a “stalemate” and has suggested that the NATO coalition needs several thousand more troops to turn the tide. There are approximately 8,400 U.S. personnel serving in Afghanistan.
Neither Mattis nor President Donald Trump has given a public indication if they support Nicholson’s request for additional troops.
Highlighting the immense challenges facing the country’s government as well as its foreign backers, a massive Taliban attack on an Afghan military compound killed at least 100 soldiers and other personnel on Friday. The attack, in which gunmen and suicide bombers stormed the compound wearing army uniforms, was so significant that it triggered the resignations of Afghanistan’s Defense Minister and its Chief of Army Staff.
Earlier this month, Nicholson ordered the use of the most powerful non-nuclear bomb in America’s arsenal, the so-called “Mother of All Bombs” on an ISIS complex. The damage it did is still not known.
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