The new Defense Secretary says he'll make a decision soon on U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan.

FOX's Malini Wilkes reports from Washington:

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is in the Middle East gathering information before advising President Trump on troop levels in Afghanistan:

(Mattis) "The President has been rightfully reticent on it because he's waiting for my assessment, and the assessment from the intelligence community."

Mattis admits it's been a tough year for Afghan forces, even with U.S. support:

(Mattis) "The Afghan security forces paid a very heavy price to keep the Taliban on their back foot. But they paid it. They held. And the Taliban's in a worse position today."

8400 American troops are currently deployed in Afghanistan. The top U.S. commander there recently told Congress he needs a few thousand more.

In Washington, Malini Wilkes, FOX News.

Follow Malini Wilkes on Twitter: @NewsMalini