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Defense chief says U.S. should stay in nuclear deal with Iran

04 October 2017

Sen. Deb Fischer on Tuesday focused on more aggressive use of US air power in Afghanistan during a hearing that featured testimony from Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"I think it's clear to me that the ISI has connections with terrorist groups", Dunford told the Committee.

Mattis says, "Yes, senator, I do".

General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate committee that it's now a stalemate in Afghanistan.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Tuesday that the more than 3,000 additional troops being deployed to Afghanistan will effectively be on "combat duty" as they support Afghan security forces on the front lines.

"My military assessment is that we drew down our advisory effort and combat support for the Afghan forces too far and too fast", Dunford said. "But this committee will not be a rubber stamp for any policy or president".

As part of the plan, the Pentagon is boosting troop numbers by about 3,500, augmenting the roughly 11,000 Americans now stationed there. We must be well-informed.

Mattis visited Afghanistan last week with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg to reaffirm USA commitment as government forces struggle to beat back the Taliban, which has been on the offensive since US-led combat forces withdrew at the end of 2014.

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In a House of Representatives hearing later on Tuesday, Mattis said Iran was "fundamentally" in compliance with the nuclear deal. We must be convinced of the merits of the administration's actions. "But the Afghan forces remain in the lead for the fighting".

Trump faces a 15 October deadline for certifying that Iran is complying with the pact, a decision that could sink an agreement strongly supported by the other powers that negotiated it, including Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the European Union.

Congressional Democrats are increasingly anxious Trump's distaste for the Iran nuclear deal will lead him to abandon the accord and imperil the ability to contain Iran's nuclear program. Denying certification could lead the U.S.to reintroduce sanctions, which in turn could lead Iran to walk away from the deal or restart previously curtailed nuclear activities.

"In the six weeks since the president made his announcement, this committee and the Congress, more broadly, still does not know numerous crucial details of this strategy", McCain said in opening testimony.

But Mattis said it's in the national security interest of the United States to stay a part of the global accord.

Asked to answer "yes" or "no" whether it was in the USA national security interest to remain in the deal, Mattis, a career hawk on Iran, answered bluntly: "Yes, I do".

"I believe at this point in time, absent indication to the contrary, it is something that the president should consider staying with", he said.

Defense chief says U.S. should stay in nuclear deal with Iran