May 9, 2017
US military officials and the State Department have recommended sending 3,000 to 5,000 additional troops, including hundreds of Special Operations forces, to Afghanistan, according to American media reports.
American officials said the US military needs a bigger role in Afghanistan to push the Taliban militant group back to the negotiating table. They have also called for authority to target Taliban leaders with airstrikes.
The proposal has yet to be approved by US President Donald Trump, but according to The New York Times, Trump was close to signing off on the recommendation, which is the result of a broad review by the Pentagon, the State Department, intelligence community and other government agencies on the Afghan war.
The US currently has around 8,400 soldiers in Afghanistan with about another 5,000 troops from NATO allies.
NATO countries would also be asked to send 3,000 to 5,000 more soldiers to Afghanistan, and the precise number of US troops deployed would probably depend on what those allies were prepared to do, The New York Times reported.
One American official said on the condition of anonymity, “NATO needs to contribute the majority of the forces.”
In February, Gen. John Nicholson, the top US commander in Afghanistan, told a Senate committee there was “a shortfall of a few thousand.”
“We would like to be able to advise below the corps level,” Nicholson said. “It’s strictly a question of manning at this point.”
The US-led occupying force officially announced to end its combat operations against the Taliban in the country at the end of 2014, and its current mission is to “train, advise, and assist” Afghan troops.
But General Raymond Thomas, commander of the US Special Operations Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing last week that the new Trump administration could permit more direct engagement between US forces and the Taliban. “Changes to the rules of engagement are being considered,” he said.
The United States — under Republican George W. Bush’s presidency — and its allies invaded Afghanistan on October 7, 2001 as part of Washington’s so-called war on terror. The offensive removed the Taliban regime from power, but after more than one and-a-half-decade, the foreign troops are still deployed to the country.
Trump, who has spoken against the Afghan war, has dubbed the 2001 invasion and following occupation of Afghanistan as “Obama’s war”, but now his administration is sending thousands of more troops to the war-torn country, signaling a policy shift.
American political analyst E. Michael Jones told Press TV on Monday that oligarchs have taken control of Trump “and basically putting him at the service of the foreign policy that the people who voted for him wanted him to reject.”
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