WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. military, since President Obama declared that American troops had ceased their combat mission at the end of 2014, has only been able to attack the Taliban from a defensive position, the top commander of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan told lawmakers.

“I have the authority to protect our coalition members against any insurgency — Haqqani [Network], Taliban, al Qaeda — if they’re posing as a threat to our coalition forces,” testified the commander, Gen. John Campbell, before the House Armed Services Committee.

The general’s comments came in response to asking if he had the authority to attack the Taliban, which has stepped up attacks since the end of 2014 and has been linked to the deteriorating security conditions in the Afghanistan.

“If the Taliban are attacking coalition forces, then I have everything I need to do that,” responded Gen. Campbell, who is expected to retire soon. “To attack the Taliban just because they’re Taliban, I do not have that authority.”