Defense Secretary Mattis defies Trump in call to preserve Iran deal

Mattis and Dunford brief Congress on security picture in Afghanistan, South Asia

But Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said it's now a stalemate in Afghanistan.

Dunford and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis are testifying before congressional committees Tuesday.

"It is a strategic convergence, a generational opportunity between the two largest democracies in the world to work together, based on those shared interests of peace, prosperity and stability in the region", Mattis said during his appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Lawmakers pressed the generals on more than just troop numbers.

Mattis said that more than 3,000 additional US troops are being sent to Afghanistan to reinforce the 11,000 USA troops already stationed in the country.

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Indeed, Afghan security forces are now fully engaged in offensive military operations for the first time in the 16-year war.

Mattis said Tuesday at hearings before the House and Senate that the White House had given him new authority to change the rules of engagement, which he has already made use of by letting us troops fire on the Taliban regardless of physical proximity, Military Times reports. "And unfortunately, we still have far more questions than answers about this new strategy". "This is totally unacceptable", McCain said, adding that it was "bizarre that for a hearing of such importance our witnesses failed to submit written testimony to this committee".

"He also said the new strategy would be "sustainable" politically, fiscally, and militarily", since it will be carried out primarily by Afghan troops.

AP reported that after Obama declared the end of the US-led "combat mission" in 2014 and announced a plan to reduce the number of Americans there to an embassy presence by 2017, the Taliban went on the offense, taking back control of or contesting territory where 36 percent of the population lives. John McCain, the committee chairman, told Mattis. That frees up the Afghans to "take the fight to the enemy", Mattis said.

Asif has embarked on a three-day visit to the United States as part of efforts to rebuild bilateral ties frayed after Trump accused Pakistan of sheltering terror groups.

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Pakistan's only leverage with U.S. is the land supply route to Afghanistan and threats of bolting to the Chinese camp.

During his remarks, Mattis said there's been progress in reducing civilian and military casualties in Afghanistan and more effectiveness in the Asian country's security forces too.

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

Already, Washington appears to have put the financial squeeze on Pakistan, shutting down the operations in the USA of Habib Bank, one of Pakistan's biggest.

Other senators raised a concern that the new Afghanistan strategy won't lead to success. "Even if it's against their own interest", Mattis said.

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Tim Kaine - a chance to wade into the weeds of the Afghanistan situation.

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