The US 'not winning in Afghanistan' according to Defense Secretary Mattis

US troops stand next to a wall and armoured vehicle in Afghanistan.
US troops stand guard. Photo credit: Reuters

The United States is "not winning" the war against Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has told Congress, promising a new war strategy by mid-July.

The remarks on Tuesday were a blunt reminder of the gloom underscoring US military assessments of the war between the US-backed Afghan government and the Islamist militant group, classified by US commanders as a "stalemate" despite almost 16 years of fighting.

"We are not winning in Afghanistan right now. And we will correct this as soon as possible," Mr Mattis said in testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee. Mr Mattis acknowledged that he believed the Taliban were "surging" at the moment, something he said he intended to address.

Reuters reported in late April that the Trump administration was reviewing Afghanistan, and were thinking about sending between 3000 and 5000 US and coalition troops there.

Some US officials questioned the benefit of sending more troops to Afghanistan because any politically palatable number would not be enough to turn the tide, much less create stability and security. To date, more than 2300 Americans have been killed and more than 17,000 wounded since the war began in 2001.

The Afghan government controls or influences just 59.7 per cent of Afghanistan's 407 districts as of February 20, a nearly 11 percentage-point decrease from the same time in 2016, according to data released by the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

A truck bomb explosion in Kabul last month killed more than 150 people, making it the deadliest attack in the Afghan capital since the Taliban were ousted in 2001.

On Saturday, three US soldiers were killed when an Afghan soldier opened fire.