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Immediate Release

Statement by Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis on Afghanistan Troop Levels

Yesterday afternoon, the President directed the Department of Defense to set troop levels in Afghanistan. This will enable our military to have greater agility to conduct operations, recognizing our military posture there is part of a broader regional context.

Thanks to the vigilance and skill of the U.S. military and our many allies and partners, horrors on the scale of Sept. 11, 2001, have not been repeated on our shores.  However, the danger continues to evolve and that danger requires a commitment to defeat terrorist organizations that threaten the United States, other nations, and the people of Afghanistan.  For example, ISIS has established a branch, al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups remain active inside Afghanistan, and the Taliban continue to pose a challenge to the democratically elected government.

This administration will not repeat the mistakes of the past.  We cannot allow Afghanistan to once again become a launching point for attacks on our homeland or on our allies.

We are making progress in degrading these groups, but their defeat will come about only by giving our men and women on the ground the support and the authorities they need to win.

The delegation of this authority does not in itself change the force levels for Afghanistan.  Rather, it ensures the Department of Defense can facilitate our missions and align our commitment to the rapidly evolving security situation, giving our troops greater latitude to provide air power and other vital support.  Our core mission will remain the same: to train, advise and assist Afghan forces.  We are there to help defeat a common enemy and ensure Afghan forces can safeguard the future of their country.

This decision is part of a broader strategy we are developing that addresses our role in Afghanistan and beyond.  We will present this to the President in the coming weeks.  We will continue to work with our allies and we will ask more of them.

Working with the Afghan government and our allies and partners, we will achieve victory against the terrorists abroad, protect our borders at home, and keep America safe.