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Blockade of Qatar a 'very complex situation': Mattis

13 Juin 2017

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis declared Monday that he was "shocked" upon his return to the Pentagon by the poor state of the USA military's readiness for combat. But lawmakers have refused to go along, questioning the data and the analysis the Pentagon used to make its argument for fewer facilities.

Mattis told the House Armed Services Committee that Qatar's emir had inherited a hard situation and was moving in the right direction. Military installations are prized possessions in congressional districts.

But President Donald Trump's fiscal 2018 budget request calls for domestic spending cuts to offset defense spending that's about $52 billion over the budget cap.

In written testimony to lawmakers ahead of a hearing on the Pentagon budget, Mattis said North Korea is increasing the pace and scope of its nuclear weapons program that leader Kim Jong-Un has stated will one day be capable of delivering a bomb on the United States.

House and Senate Republicans are on record saying the $603 billion budget is not enough to meet emerging threats and boost readiness. David Petraeus and Stanley McChrystal, are expected to submit a paper to the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday arguing that Trump administration proposals to slash State Department funding would hamper military operations.

Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says the USA has an "adversarial relationship with Russian Federation".

The Pentagon's top leaders are set to testify before a congressional panel on the military's budget, but the session is likely to veer into questions about Russia, Qatar's alleged support for terrorism, the Syrian civil war and other thorny subjects.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions to Testify Publicly on Tuesday
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has asked for his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee to be public. It was not immediately clear if those matters are what will be discussed with the Attorney General on Tuesday.

Qatar has been engulfed in a political crisis that stems from accusations by its Arab neighbors that it supports terrorism.

The situation in Afghanistan, which US military officials acknowledge is in a stalemate nearly 16 years since the war started, has deteriorated in recent months. The country hosts roughly 10,000 American troops as well as the forward headquarters of U.S. Central Command.

Media have reported that Mattis will recommend sending another 3,000 to 5,000 US troops to break what he has called a "stalemate" between USA -backed government forces and the Taliban.

North Korea is a politically and economically isolated nation whose leaders have long viewed the United States as a military threat, in part because of periodic US military exercises with South Korea.

The war in Afghanistan began in October 2001. The U.S. has about 9,800 troops in Afghanistan conducting counterterrorism operations against insurgents and training the Afghan army.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were scheduled to appear Monday evening before the House Armed Services Committee. Although they ended their combat mission against the Taliban in 2014, they are increasingly involved in backing up Afghan forces on the battlefield.