Pakistan's key intelligence 'connected to terrorists' - USA top general

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, US India Jim Mattis

After a noticeable pause, Mattis finally replied: "Yes, senator, I do".

Mr Mattis, a retired general, said he had spoken with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on the issue three times in the last ten days as they tried to ensure that it was "an office we can actually deal with" and not just a physical presence.

Mattis has said it's more than 3,000, but has refused to get more specific.

The Senate Armed Services Committee "still does not know numerous crucial details of the strategy".

Mattis said additional US and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation airpower striking the Taliban will also make Afghan troops more capable in combat by ensuring government forces maintain the "high ground".

The top US military commander also said that he thinks Pakistan's main spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), has ties to militant groups.

"The fighting will continue to be carried out by our Afghan partners", he said, "but our advisers will accompany tactical units to advise and bring North Atlantic Treaty Organisation fire support to bear when needed".

Indeed, several Republican lawmakers have voiced skepticism over the president's decertification strategy, including the GOP chairmen of the Senate and House foreign relations committees, Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee and Rep. Ed Royce of California, as well as Senators Rand Paul of Kentucky, Jeff Flake of Arizona and Tom Cotton of Arkansas.

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The nuclear deal brokered by the Obama administration is "an embarrassment to the United States, and I don't think you've heard the last of it, believe me", Trump said in his first UN address. We must be well-informed.

After the hearing, McCain told reporters that his committee will refuse to confirm any Trump nominees to the Pentagon until he receives more information about the administration's strategy in both Afghanistan and Iraq. We must be convinced of the merits of the administration's actions. There are already 11,000 USA troops there.

"Now that the [US] withdrawal is not taking place, and no advances have been made towards a political settlement, there seems to be little utility of Doha's Taliban office", he added.

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

Dunford told the committee that it's clear to him that Pakistan's intelligence service has connections to the terrorist groups.

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.

Mattis said hat the United States is in Afghanistan to make America safer and ensure South Asia can not be used to plot trans- national attacks against itself and its partners and allies.

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