Congress Military

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis (left), accompanied by Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford, speaks on Afghanistan before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday. 

Sen. Deb Fischer on Tuesday focused on more aggressive use of U.S. air power in Afghanistan during a hearing that featured testimony from Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Fischer was assured that is part of the new U.S. strategy in battling Taliban forces in Afghanistan that has been approved by President Donald Trump.

"Absolutely," Mattis told Fischer in answering questions during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

"That is embedded in the revised strategy," he said. 

"Restrictions that did not allow us to employ air power fully have been removed," Mattis said.  

However, he added, "we will never fight without doing everything possible to protect the innocent who the enemy purposely jeopardizes" while conducting the war.

In response to another question from Fischer, Dunford said there will be long-term transformation of responsibilities to the Afghan air force.

Fischer also asked Mattis whether there is a cap on the future number of U.S. troops that would be deployed to conduct the ongoing 16-year war against the Taliban that began after the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.

"The president gave me more flexibility to deal with this issue," Mattis said. "He has shown himself open to my recommendations.

"I think I have what I need to carry out the strategy," he said.

Fischer is a member of the committee and chairwoman of its subcommittee on strategic forces. 

Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or dwalton@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSDon.

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Political reporter

Don Walton, a Husker and Yankee fan, is a longtime Journal Star political and government reporter.

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