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US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said on Thursday that he has signed orders for deployment of new troops in Afghanistan as part of a new South Asia strategy announced recently by US President Donald Trump.
In an interaction with Pentagon reporters, Mattis, however, refused to give any details of the new troop levels in terms of their numbers, deployment and where they are coming from.
"Yes. I've signed orders but it's not completed. In other words, I've signed some of the troops that will go and we're identifying the specific ones," Mattis said.
Mattis' announcement came a day after the Pentagon disclosed that there are about 11,000 US troops in Afghanistan as against 8,600 announced earlier.
Unveiling his South Asia strategy ten days ago to win the war on terrorism, Trump said he will prolong the US military intervention in Afghanistan, which he had once described as a "complete waste".
Trump acknowledged that his "instincts" told him to pull out troops from Afghanistan.
"Historically, I like following my instincts," Trump said. "A hasty withdrawal," Trump said, would create a "vacuum" for terrorists.
"Let me just be real clear when you go into Afghanistan and you're carrying a gun you're going into a combat zone. I don't buy it. Don't get me wrong the fight will still be carried by the Afghan security forces plus the 38 other allies who were there alongside us and will be working," Mattis said.
"We have some counterterrorism strike teams that are there as you know. But by and large, this is to enable the Afghan forces to fight more effectively. And there are some other things logistics," he said.
Mattis said he would reveal details of the new troop level before the Congress soon.
"There's always some who are going in and probably the specific alignment of those forces are starting to align with the decision to put more enablers in. In other words, you'll start seeing the change in the forces who are there as they become more aligned to the President's new assigned mission," he said.