US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has warned that an American withdrawal from Afghanistan would be "to our ultimate peril," weeks after President Donald Trump announced to prolong the Afghan war, which he once described as a “complete waste.”
"Based on intelligence community analysis and my own evaluation, I am convinced we would absent ourselves from this region at our peril," Mattis said on Tuesday while briefing the US Congress on plans to increase American troop levels in the South Asian country.
The Trump administration recently announced plans to send an additional 3,000 troops to Afghanistan where the US already has 11,000 forces.
The US-led occupying force officially announced to end its combat operations against the Taliban in the country at the end of 2014, and its current mission is to “train, advise, and assist” Afghan troops. But the Trump administration has permitted more direct engagement between US forces and the Taliban.
"We must always remember we are in Afghanistan to make America safer and to ensure South Asia cannot be used to plot transnational attacks against the US homeland or our partners and allies," Mattis said, testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The United States -- under Republican George W. Bush’s presidency -- and its allies invaded Afghanistan on October 7, 2001 as part of Washington’s so-called war on terror. The offensive removed the Taliban regime from power, but after 16 years, the foreign troops are still deployed to the country.
After becoming the president in 2008, President Barack Obama, a Democrat, vowed to end the Afghan war -- one of the longest conflicts in US history – but he failed to keep his promise.
Trump, who has spoken against the Afghan war, has dubbed the 2001 invasion and following occupation of Afghanistan as "Obama's war".
On August 21, Trump announced his new Afghanistan policy and said he would raise the number of US forces in Afghanistan, citing fight against the Taliban and other terrorist groups.
Trump who had previously called for withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan argued that his "original instinct was to pull out," but that he was convinced by his national security team to take on the Taliban militants.