President Donald Trump's top military adviser just openly contradicted Trump's position on the Iran nuclear deal while testifying in front of Congress, adding to the growing number of prominent officials who have publicly disagreed with the president's belief that the Iran deal is bad for the U.S. and should be canceled or renegotiated.
"Absolutely", Mattis told Fischer in answering questions during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.
Mattis was purposefully unclear on how many more US troops would deploy to Afghanistan - and when - saying "more than 3,000" would bolster the 11,000 now on the ground "in the coming months", although senators on the committee said the number would be about 3,500.
And local news reports detailing troop deployments from U.S. Army bases to Afghanistan are widely available; those reports suggest about 2,700 U.S. soldiers have already deployed, or will soon deploy, as part of the latest surge.
"The fighting will continue to be carried out by our Afghan partners, but our advisers will accompany tactical units to advise and assist and bring North Atlantic Treaty Organisation fire support to bear when needed", Mattis testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Indeed, several Republican lawmakers have voiced skepticism over the president's decertification strategy, including the GOP chairmen of the Senate and House foreign relations committees, Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee and Rep. Ed Royce of California, as well as Senators Rand Paul of Kentucky, Jeff Flake of Arizona and Tom Cotton of Arkansas. Mattis has said about 3,000 USA troops will join 11,000 American forces and 6,800 additional worldwide troops from allied nations. We must be well-informed. "But the Afghan forces remain in the lead for the fighting". We must be convinced of the merits of the administration's actions.
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He has so far certified that Iran is in compliance with the agreement but has indicated the next deadline on October 15 will be crucial.
During his own address at the UN General Assembly, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said it would be a "great pity" if "rogue newcomers" destroy the global nuclear deal that lifted sanctions in exchange for curbs on Tehran's nuclear program. Denying certification could lead the U.S.to reintroduce sanctions, which in turn could lead Iran to walk away from the deal or restart previously curtailed nuclear activities.
Trump, while announcing the new strategy for Afghanistan, had criticised Pakistan for providing safe havens to terror outfits.
Recently, Mattis visited New Delhi and said India and the United States "resolve to work together to eradicate this scourge" of terrorism.
"If we can confirm that Iran is living by the agreement, if we can determine that this is in our best interest, then clearly, we should stay with it", Mattis said.
"The president gave me more flexibility to deal with this issue", Mattis said.