US shifts gears from Iraq to Afghanistan; Mattis warns about budget

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (WVEC)--  Big changes are in the works for U.S. forces overseas. The Pentagon switched gears, and is redeploying troops from Iraq to Afghanistan.

This movement comes as Congress continues to dither when it comes to passing a long term appropriations bill.

The current Continuing Resolution funding government is due to expire at midnight on Thursday.

Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee on the National Defense Strategy and nuclear posture review, Secretary of Defense James Mattis criticized Congress continuing to pass temporary, stopgap spending measures, instead of long-term budgets.

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 "We are again on the verge of a government shutdown, or at best, another damaging Continuing Resolution," he said.

Mattis' comment came as the U.S. military has begun shifting troops and equipment from Iraq, to Afghanistan, where the Taliban and other groups are waging a more conventional fight.

Senate Armed Services Committee member Tim Kaine of Virginia said, the move makes sense.

"Look, the Taliban still controls too much of the country," he said. "And we need to do more work to enable the Afghan military which has grown both in its size and capacity to defeat that enemy. So, yeah, I'm not surprised with the success on the battlefield against ISIS in Iraq, some of the resources, people and equipment from the CENTCOM ae being moved from Iraq to Afghanistan to help."

As to Mattis' point about budgeting, and its impact on the military, Kaine agreed with that, too.

 "Secretary Mattis was very plain coming to the Senate Democrats and Republicans in late January and saying, don't do more C.R.'s, find a path to the  budget," he said. "If you do a Continuing Resolution, that's just punting down the road, because you don't know what you're going to do, that's no longer acceptable."

Despite the shifting around of personnel, the overall number of U.S. troops is expected to remain close to current levels, according to a Pentagon spokesperson: about 5,200 in Iraq and roughly 14,000 in Afghanistan.