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Mattis says staying in Iran deal is in USA interests

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Pakistan FM Khawaja Asif meets US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Washington on Thursday

The president announced the strategy in August.

But Marine Corp Gen Dunford said it's now a stalemate in Afghanistan.

While Afghan forces are taking heavy casualties in the fight, Mattis said they are suffering fewer casualties than they did past year, a sign that could point to the forces' improving battlefield capabilities.

Last month, Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said the accord can not be renegotiated. "During these recent months, there have been fewer civilian casualties as a result of coalition operations, although regrettably, Taliban high-profile attacks on civilians continue to murder the innocent".

This, he added, should "defeat ISIS and al-Qaida in Afghanistan and ensure other terrorist groups are unable to launch attacks against the homeland, USA citizens or our allies; further develop Afghan forces that are capable of managing residual violence with limited global support; support President Ghani's effort to secure key population and economic centers; and provide an enduring counterterrorism partnership with Afghanistan to protect our shared interests in South Asia".

The construct is created to improve the ability of Afghan forces to conduct offensives, defend critical areas and reduce the casualties they are taking. "President Trump's guidance to both Secretary Tillerson and me has been very clearly that we would. pursue the diplomatic effort to include with the various initiatives with China", Mattis told a Senate hearing.

The Trump administration's Afghanistan strategy has a new acronym, one which the Pentagon's top officials say will lay the groundwork for a stable Afghanistan in the future. Iran also has said it has no intention ever of acquiring nuclear weapons, but the US and Israel are among the countries that do not accept those assurances, citing Iran's past nuclear activities.

The goal, he added, is a stable and secure region and that can only happen if the Taliban reject support or conduct of terrorism.

Mattis explicitly declined to tell senators how many troops were being sent to Afghanistan in Trump's escalation.

Just this past week, the US Senate passed the defence budget that made some payments to Pakistan conditional on it acting against the Lashkar-e-Taiba, which targets India, and the Haqqani Network, which is active in Afghanistan. Under the previous operational construct, advisors would limited to the corps level. That frees up the Afghans to "take the fight to the enemy", Mattis said.

"Make no mistake, this is combat duty, but the Afghan forces remain in the lead for the fighting", he said. Royce echoed Corker: "Enforce the hell out of [it]", he said. "In light of our new strategy, 15 nations have signaled that they will increase their support", he told the panel. "Our goal is a stabilized Afghanistan, achieved through an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process". Other issues relating to the agriculture sector including cost of production, productivity, marketability and competiveness of the local agri-products and the challenges faced by the agriculturists came under discussion. "They are liabilities. I accept that they are liabilities, but give us time to get rid of them because we don't have the assets to match these liabilities and you are increasing them [our liabilities] further", he said. "He can now commit more himself to the stability and prosperity of South Asia". For example, if enemy forces are assembling and USA commanders know they are likely to become a threat, they have the authority to act.

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