Friday, June 17, 2016

U.S. to expand its role in Afghanistan


Barack Obama has always vowed to end the Afghan war, but the White House recently announced that the U.S. role in the 15-year conflict will expand.

Josh Earnest, press secretary to President Obama, said that US forces would be playing a greater role in helping Afghan troops be more effective on the battlefield. He said the new support would come as "advice and assistance" as well as "occasionally accompanying them in their operations".

The Afghan forces are having difficulty containing the Taliban who are carrying out numerous attacks including on the capital of Kabul. Obama denied that Obama was restarting the combat role of the US that ended in 2014. Nevertheless, at least 9,800 US forces still remain in the country in an advisory role since 2015. They were only authorized to target Taliban in defense, or to protect Afghan troops. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said that the new order was issued to General Sean MacFarland, who is the US commander in Afghanistan.

Rosalind Jordan of Al Jazeera said the US defense department had been wanting to carry out the extended mission for months: "The concern about the resurgence of the Taliban has been growing in the Pentagon." The new plan will also include "strategic strikes" she claimed to weaken the Taliban.
The US does not want to see the Afghan military "be caught short" as the summer fighting season enters high gear. At its peak in March 2011, the US had around 100,000 troops in Afghanistan. More than 2,000 soldiers were killed. However, just last year, the Afghans lost 5,000 troops causing Obama to postpone any further withdrawal of troops.

Earnest said that in addition to an increase in air strikes, restrictions would be loosened on what ground troops could do. He said special forces would be more proactive and even engage in occasional combat operations alongside Afghan forces. Lt. Gen. John Nicholson wants to ramp operations back up as the Taliban seize more territory. It is reported that Nicholson wants to keep about 9,800 troops in Afghanistan until at least the end of the year. They could stay even longer.
Ash Carter Defence Secretary US

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