Trump and Security Team to Mull Strategic Options on Afghanistan

US National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were among those attending Friday's talks at Camp David

Trump and Security Team to Mull Strategic Options on Afghanistan

Mattis has said he would commit to troop level adjustments after the administration agrees on a coherent strategy for Afghanistan and the broader region, including Pakistan's dealings with terrorist groups. "We are coming very close to a decision and I anticipate it in the very near future".

U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis said Thursday that President Donald Trump's administration is nearing a decision on a strategy created to end the war in Afghanistan, the longest conflict in U.S. history.

US officials told Reuters options being presented to Trump on Friday range from a total pullout from Afghanistan, keeping the status quo of some 8,400 USA troops, a modest hike, or a small reduction that would focus on counter-terrorism operations enhanced by drone strikes and intelligence-gathering, they said.

The Camp David discussions have also been complicated by differences over taking a harder line on Pakistan for failing to close Afghan Taliban sanctuaries and arrest Afghan extremist leaders.

Afghan police have discovered mass graves containing the bodies of at least 36 victims of a recent militant attack on a village, officials have said.

Such a designation would trigger harsh US sanctions, including a ban on arms sales and an end to USA economic assistance.

Earlier, reports had emerged that the USA administration may consider outsourcing the war management in Afghanistan to a private firm.

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Finalizing a regional security strategy has been held up by Trump's frustration with a lack of options for defeating the Taliban and ending the longest foreign conflict in USA history.

He's the third USA president struggling to stabilize Afghanistan since George W. Bush sent special forces to help oust the Taliban government for harboring Osama bin Laden after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.

USA officials have consulted Afghanistan leaders on Mattis's plan, according to Afghan Ambassador to the U.S.

McMaster, Mattis, Dunford and retired Marine General John Kelly, the president's chief of staff, are opposed to this plan, according to US officials.

After years of extensive support from the United States and other North Atlantic Treaty Organisation member nations, the Afghan military is still struggling to resist the Taliban, which has made recent advances in Afghanistan and the Pakistan border region.

USA military and intelligence officials are concerned that a Taliban victory would allow al Qaeda and Islamic State's regional affiliate to establish bases in Afghanistan from which to plot attacks against the United States and its allies.

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