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Trump gives Pentagon authority to determine troop levels in Afghanistan

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Trump administration has granted the Pentagon the authority to manage troop levels in Afghanistan, according to a U.S. official who said the decision is expected to be announced on Wednesday.

The move means it will likely be up to Defense Secretary James Mattis to decide whether to send more American troops to Afghanistan as has been recommended by U.S. military commanders.

In late April, President Trump similarly gave Mattis the authority to manage the U.S. troop levels in Iraq and Syria.

While a similar delegation of authority to the Pentagon for Afghanistan troop levels had been expected, it had been anticipated that it would occur after the Trump administration concluded its Afghanistan strategy review.

Earlier on Tuesday, Mattis told a congressional panel that the review will be completed in mid-July.

"We are not winning in Afghanistan right now, and we will correct this as soon as possible," Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

There are about 8,400 American troops in Afghanistan advising and assisting the Afghan military in its fight against the Taliban and the ISIS affiliate in Afghanistan.

In February, Gen. John Nicholson, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, described the military situation in Afghanistan as "a stalemate" and acknowledged the need for additional troops to help train, advise and assist the Afghan military.

U.S. officials have said that as part of the strategy review the U.S. military had proposed sending 2,000 to 4,000 more American troops to Afghanistan.

The delegation of troop level authority to Mattis presumably means that the defense secretary will decide how many additional American troops could be headed to Afghanistan.

The move restores the process that had been in place prior to the Bush and Obama administrations.

Defense Department officials portrayed the return of Pentagon control over Iraq and Syria troop levels as giving military commanders more flexibility and better management of their operations.

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