US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has vowed that the Trump administration will not repeat the "mistakes of the past" in Afghanistan, after the president signaled a desire to give the Pentagon wide latitude in setting warfighting policy.
But given Afghanistan's violent history and the fate of successive presidents' efforts to score some sort of victory there, analysts are not confident of Mattis's chances of longterm success.
Unlike his predecessor Barack Obama, who kept battlefield commanders on a tight leash and scrutinized each deployment, President Donald Trump has deferred to top brass -- the men he likes to call "my generals."
Though Trump has said little about Afghanistan, this week he gave Mattis authority to set troop numbers there at whatever level he sees fit, a decision finalized as the Pentagon chief told lawmakers America is still "not winning" against the Taliban.
The Pentagon is reportedly considering deploying an extra 3,000 to 5,000 troops -- some of whom would come from Nato allies -- in Afghanistan to help train and advise local forces fighting the Taliban and other insurgent groups.
"This administration will not repeat the mistakes of the past," Mattis declared Wednesday.
"We cannot allow Afghanistan to once again become a launching point for attacks on our homeland or on our allies," he said, alluding to the former Taliban government's granting haven to Al-Qaeda before the September 11, 2011 terror attacks in the US.