In a stark admission, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan told Capitol Hill lawmakers Thursday that after 15 years of war, the conflict remains a “stalemate” – and said thousands more troops are needed to train Afghan forces.
Army Gen. John W. Nicholson, Jr. offered lawmakers a grim assessment about the prospects for truly ending a war that so far has cost more than 2,000 American lives — and billions of dollars — since 2001. The challenge, he testified, is made even tougher by Russia and Iran’s aid to the Taliban, amid signs the militant group is making territorial gains.
“I believe we’re in a stalemate,” Nicholson told Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., when asked directly if the U.S. and its allies are winning or losing.
He said he has “adequate” resources for counterterrorism, but is facing a shortfall of a few-thousand troops to train Afghan forces.
He made clear those additional troops could come from allies as well as the U.S., and said the subject would be on the table when Defense Secretary Jim Mattis attends a NATO defense meeting next week in Brussels.
At the Senate hearing Thursday, Nicholson also told lawmakers a U.S. special forces soldier had been “severely wounded” that morning in Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan. Twelve Americans have been killed in Afghanistan since October.
In further evidence that the war is far from over despite then-President Barack Obama declaring an end to the combat mission in 2014, the United Nations reported Monday a record number of Afghan civilians were killed in Afghanistan last year. The report said nearly 3,500 were killed and nearly 8,000 wounded. A government watchdog group also says the Afghan government only controls 60 percent of the country right now.
Five Americans continue to be held hostage in Afghanistan, according to Nicholson.
At the White House, Press Secretary Sean Spicer said President Trump would “heed the advice” of his generals and defense secretary, but said no decision was imminent. .
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