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FILE PHOTO - U.S. Army soldiers from the 2nd Platoon, B battery 2-8 field artillery, fire a howitzer artillery piece at Seprwan Ghar forward fire base in Panjwai district, Kandahar province southern Afghanistan, June 12, 2011. REUTERS/Baz Ratner/File Photo(reuters_tickers)
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon said on Thursday it has not yet reached a decision on future troop levels in Afghanistan, amid speculation that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis may have finalised plans for an increase in forces to help break a stalemate with the Taliban.
"No decisions have been made," said Defense Department spokesman Jeff Davis, when asked about an Associated Press report that Mattis had decided on sending nearly 4,000 additional troops.
Still, that figure would be in line with previous comments by U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity. Reuters has reported that U.S. deliberations were focussed on sending between 3,000 and 5,000 troops to Afghanistan, where American forces have been fighting for nearly 16 years.
One official told Reuters last month that 3,800 troops could be sent but cautioned that could change, given discussions with North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies about their potential contributions. About 8,400 U.S. troops are now deployed in Afghanistan.
Mattis said in testimony before the U.S. Senate on June 14 that he is just weeks away from presenting to U.S. President Donald Trump a new strategy that will inform his decision on troop numbers. Trump authorized Mattis to set future Afghan troop levels on Tuesday.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
(Reporting by Phil Stewart, Idrees Ali and Jeff Mason; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)