Mattis: Number of extra Afghanistan troops still not decided

BAGHDAD, Aug 22 (Reuters) - U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis said on Tuesday he was waiting for a plan from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that follows President Donald Trump's South Asia strategy before he makes a decision on how many additional troops to send to Afghanistan.

"When he brings that to me, I will determine how many more we need to send in," Mattis told reporters during a visit to Baghdad. "It may or may not the number that is bandied about."

U.S. officials have said Trump has given Mattis the authority to send about 4,000 additional troops to add to the roughly 8,400 already in Afghanistan.

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U.S. President Donald Trump announces his strategy for the war in Afghanistan during an address from Fort Myer, Virginia, U.S., August 21, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
U.S. President Donald Trump announces his strategy for the war in Afghanistan during an address to the nation from Fort Myer, Virginia, U.S., August 21, 2017.
Senior White House Advisor Ivanka Trump, U.S. first lady Melania Trump and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence wait for U.S. President Donald Trump to announce his strategy for the war in Afghanistan during an address from Fort Myer, Virginia, U.S., August 21, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
U.S. President Donald Trump announces his strategy for the war in Afghanistan during an address to the nation from Fort Myer, Virginia, U.S., August 21, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence greets Chief of Staff of the Army General Mark A. Milley before President Donald Trump announces his strategy for the war in Afghanistan during an address from Fort Myer, Virginia, U.S., August 21, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Military personnel watch as U.S. President Donald Trump announces his strategy for the war in Afghanistan during an address to the nation from Fort Myer, Virginia, U.S., August 21, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Military personnel watch as U.S. President Donald Trump (L) announces his strategy for the war in Afghanistan during an address to the nation from Fort Myer, Virginia, U.S., August 21, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Senior adviser to and daughter of the President Ivanka Trump, first lady Melania Trump and Vice President Mike Pence (L-R) listen as U.S. President Donald Trump announces his strategy for the war in Afghanistan during an address to the nation from Fort Myer, Virginia, U.S., August 21, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with military officers as he departs after announcing his strategy for the war in Afghanistan during an address to the nation from Fort Myer, Virginia, U.S., August 21, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
U.S. President Donald Trump announces his strategy for the war in Afghanistan during an address from Fort Myer, Virginia, U.S., August 21, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
U.S. President Donald Trump announces his strategy for the war in Afghanistan during an address to the nation from Fort Myer, Virginia, U.S., August 21, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
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In a speech on Monday, Trump offered few specifics but promised a stepped-up military campaign against Taliban insurgents who have gained ground against U.S-backed government forces in Afghanistan.

"We are not nation-building. We are killing terrorists," he said in a prime-time televised address at a military base outside Washington.

Trump also singled out Pakistan for harboring militants.

Mattis said lessons learned from fighting Islamic State in Iraq would be used in Afghanistan.

When asked how Trump's strategy would differ from those of previous administrations, he said the approach would be broader but provided no specifics.

"There is a broader approach to this and it all comes down to the execution and we will have to stand and deliver on this. ... I understand the question, you'll just have to watch it unfold to really get the answer to it," Mattis said.

RELATED: A look at Mattis in Afghanistan

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U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis looks out over Kabul as he arrives via helicopter at Resolute Support headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan April 24, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis is saluted by a member of his U.S. Army helicopter crew as he arrives at Resolute Support headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan April 24, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis checks his watch as he arrives via helicopter at Resolute Support headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan April 24, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
A U.S. soldier mans a gun at the back gate aboard the helicopter carrying U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis as he arrives via helicopter at Resolute Support headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan April 24, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis (R) and senior advisor Sally Donnelly (L) arrive via helicopter at Resolute Support headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan April 24, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis (R) gives senior advisor Sally Donnelly (L) a thumbs-up as they discuss their schedule upon arriving via helicopter at Resolute Support headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan April 24, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis (C) boards a helicopter to fly from Hamid Karzai International Airport to Resolute Support headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan April 24, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis (3rd R) is greeted by U.S. Army Command Sergeant Major David Clark (L) and General Christopher Haas (2nd R) as he arrives at Resolute Support headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan April 24, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis (in black dress shoes) walks with U.S. Army leaders across a NATO logo as he arrives at Resolute Support headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan April 24, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis arrives via helicopter at Resolute Support headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan April 24, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani (R) meets with U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis (L) and his delegation at the Presidential Palace in Kabul, Afghanistan April 24, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis (C) is greeted by Presidential Palace staff as he arrives to meet with Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul, Afghanistan April 24, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis (R) is greeted by Presidential Palace staff as he arrives to meet with Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul, Afghanistan April 24, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis (center right) is greeted by Presidential Palace staff as he arrives to meet with Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul, Afghanistan April 24, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis (R) and U.S. Army General John Nicholson (L), commander of U.S. Forces Afghanistan, arrive to meet with an Afghan defense delegation at Resolute Support headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan April 24, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani (2nd R) meets with U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis (2nd L) and his delegation at the Presidential Palace in Kabul, Afghanistan April 24, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis (C) and U.S. Army General John Nicholson (2nd L), commander of U.S. Forces Afghanistan, meet with Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security Director Mohammad Masoom Stanekzai (R) and other members of the Afghan delegation at Resolute Support headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan April 24, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
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U.S. officials have told Reuters in the past that possible Trump administration responses included expanding U.S. drone strikes, redirecting or withholding some aid to Pakistan and downgrading Pakistan's status as a major non-NATO ally.

Experts say that for years U.S. efforts to curb Pakistan's support for militant groups have failed and that further strengthening U.S. ties to India, Pakistan's arch-enemy, undermine chances of a breakthrough with Islamabad.

"(Trump) demanded strategic shifts in Pakistan without credible carrots or sticks while utterly ignoring the rest of the major regional players like China, Iran and Russia that back Pakistan's approach," said Sameer Lalwani, a senior associate at the Stimson Center think tank. (Reporting by Idrees Ali; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Bill Trott)

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