Mattis Warns Against US Pullout From Afghanistan, Says Afghan Forces Fully Engaged

Secretary of Defense James Mattis testifies before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the

Mattis said US President Donald Trump's new strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia has been welcomed nearly uniformly by leaders in the region as well as the 39 countries contributing troops to the NATO-led campaign.

Mr Mattis, a retired general, said he had spoken with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on the issue three times in the last ten days as they tried to ensure that it was "an office we can actually deal with" and not just a physical presence.

Having heavyweights like Mattis weighing in to support the deal could give Republican senators more reason to stand in disagreement with president.

General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate committee that it's now a stalemate in Afghanistan.

An important component of the new US strategy in Afghanistan is a threat to withdraw aid and other support for Pakistan if the country continues to tolerate the presence of the Afghan Taliban and the allied Haqqani network, which are leading the insurgency against Afghan and USA forces.

"We must always remember we are in Afghanistan to make America safer and to ensure South Asia can not be used to plot transnational attacks against the USA homeland or our partners and allies", he said.

"We want to be your partners", McCain said. In a statement in August he said Iran is "not in compliance with the agreement and they certainly are not in the spirit of the agreement in compliance", and in September he called the agreement an "embarrassment" during a speech to the United Nations. We must be well-informed.

Republican Senator Bob Corker foreshadowed the daunting task Sunday telling NBCNews the U.S.is "likely to have troops in Afghanistan for the next decade".

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On Friday, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif urged Europe to defy USA sanctions if Trump's administration abandons the JCPOA.

Mattis visited Afghanistan last week with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg to reaffirm United States commitment as government forces struggle to beat back the Taliban, which has been on the offensive since US-led combat forces withdrew at the end of 2014.

"A political settlement in Afghanistan is only possible if the Taliban reject support or conduct of terrorism", he said.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, lectured Mattis and Gen. Joseph Dunford at the opening of the hearing.

Such certification is needed by USA law every 90 days in order for the Congress to continue to withhold nuclear-related sanctions against Iran, itself a U.S. commitment under the JCPOA.

Mattis said hat the USA is in Afghanistan to make America safer and ensure South Asia can not be used to plot trans- national attacks against itself and its partners and allies.

Trump has been hinting for months that he's ready to take steps to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal as a crucial October deadline approaches that could decide the fate of the agreement.

"I believe at this point in time, absent indication to the contrary, it is something that the president should consider staying with", he said.

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