Pentagon Chief Jim Mattis 'shocked' by low level of US military readiness

Pentagon chief declares North Korea the new top threat to US security

Pentagon chief declares North Korea the new top threat to US security

Defence Secretary Jim Mattis blamed the inability of Congress to deliver an annual defence budget for what he called a shockingly poor state of combat readiness as the United States faces fierce rivals, including what he described as an "urgent and risky threat" from North Korea.

Mattis made the comments before the Senate Armed Services Committee, where Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) questioned why the Donald Trump administration has yet to present a new strategy for the conflict.

The US military risks losing its competitive edge over America's adversaries in five years' time without a major boost in defense spending, Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned Tuesday.

"We recognise the need for urgency", Mattis said.

It has been four months since Army General John Nicholson, who leads USA and global forces in Afghanistan, said he needed "a few thousand" additional forces, some potentially drawn from United States allies.

Secretary Mattis equated "winning" in Afghanistan with the Afghan government's ability to handle the enemy's level of violence, which he said will require a "residual force" of USA and allied forces to train Afghan troops and maintain high-end capabilities.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer on May 9 said President Trump wants to "eliminate the threats" against the U.S.in Afghanistan.

Mattis testified very bluntly to members of the Senate Armed Services Committee about the declining military situation in Afghanistan, but said that he will have the problem fixed shortly, according to Reuters.

"Four years later, I returned to the Department (of Defense), and I have been shocked by what I've seen about our readiness to fight", he added.

Senator McCain highlighted the attack on Tuesday.

They said this will be separate from the request to increase the number of advisers for training and assistance and the United States would expect to increase the frequency of airstrikes launched.

According to a USA military assessment of the Afghani military control or influence, only 59.7 percent of Afghanistan's 407 districts are held by the Afghan military as of February 20.

Under a deal with Moon's conservative predecessor, the United States deployed key components of the so-called Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system last spring to cope with what it calls North Korea's advancing nuclear threats. "No enemy in the field has done more to harm the readiness of our military than sequestration", he added.

McCain then threatened that if the Pentagon doesn't come up with a strategy for Afghanistan soon, "you're going to get a strategy from us". Mattis already called North Korea the "most urgent and unsafe threat to peace and security in the Asia-Pacific", during his speech at this year's Shangri-La Dialogue.

Mattis says Congress has "sidelined itself from its active constitutional oversight role" by failing to deliver a steady stream of funding to pay for new weapons and other critical gear.

Accusing the USA leader of underestimating the secretive Communist state's capabilities, an article last week in state-run newspaper Rodong Sinmun, suggested that it was close to developing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

There have been bipartisan efforts this year in the House to bar new funding for Afghanistan and to open a policy debate in Congress whether to withdraw US troops.

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