Mattis: ‘We’re Not Wining in Afghanistan’; McCain: Give Us a Strategy

Susan Jones | June 13, 2017 | 10:39am EDT
Font Size
Defense Secretary Gen. James Mattis testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, June 13, 2017. (Screen grab from C-SPAN)

( - “We’re not wining in Afghanistan right now, and we will correct this as soon as possible,” Defense Secretary James Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday.

Mattis said the Trump administration is working on a strategy; he understands the urgency; and he expects to have details by mid-July.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the committee chairman, told Mattis:

“We’re now six months into this administration, and we still don’t have a strategy for Afghanistan. It makes it hard for us to support you when we don’t have a strategy. We know what the strategy was for the last eight years -- don’t lose. That hasn’t worked.”

McCain mentioned the “three brave Americans” who were killed in Afghanistan on Saturday, when an Afghan soldier gunned them down. A fourth American survived the attack.

“When can we expect – the Congress of the United States – to get a strategy for Afghanistan that is a departure from the last eight years, which was ‘don’t lose?’” McCain asked Mattis.

“I believe by mid-July we’ll be able to brief you in detail, sir,” Mattis replied. “We’re putting it together now – and there are actions being taken to make certain that we don’t pay a price for the delay. But we recognize the need for urgency. And your criticism is fair, sir.”

McCain said he’s a great admirer of Mattis, “but we just can’t keep going like this." He said Mattis can’t expect Congress to fulfill his request for a funding increase and budget stability “if you don’t give us a strategy.”

McCain said he was confident that within the first 30-60 days of the Trump administration, a strategy would be produced. “So all I can tell you is, unless we get a strategy from you, you’re going to get a strategy from us…But the fact is, it’s not our job. It’s yours.”

McCain also asked Mattis, “Do you agree that we’re not winning in Afghanistan?”

“We’re not wining in Afghanistan right now, and we will correct this as soon as possible,” Mattis replied. He said he understands the urgency.

McCain said that he and the committee understand that some of this is beyond Mattis’s control.

But, the senator added, “Congress owes the America people a strategy which will then lead to success in Afghanistan.”

Later in the hearing, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) made the point that the Congress has not issued an updated authorization for the use of military force in Afghanistan and Iraq, relying instead on the 2001 AUMF that dealt with al Qaeda.

Both Mattis and Dunford said they continue to hold the view that an updated AUMF would benefit the men and women who are fighting for their country by letting them know the American people support their efforts.

mrc merch