Pentagon to send nearly 4,000 more troops to Afghanistan

Jim Michaels — USA Today June 17, 2017

US troops at Afghan base. Click to enlarge

US troops at Afghan base. Click to enlarge

The Pentagon will send nearly 4,000 additional troops to Afghanistan in an effort to turn around a war that commanders have described as a stalemate, the Associated Press reported Thursday.

Earlier this week, President Trump provided his defense secretary, Jim Mattis, with the authority to determine troop levels in Afghanistan.

The AP cited a Trump administration source who was not authorized to discuss the decision publicly and said the decision could be announced as early as next week.

A Pentagon spokeswoman said no decision has been made yet.

“Any decisions about troop numbers will be made only after consultation with the interagency, the Afghan government, NATO allies and coalition partners,” Dana White said.

A U.S. official who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to discuss the issue publicly said the Pentagon is still considering between 3,000 and 5,000 U.S. troops.

The Pentagon is reviewing the strategy for Afghanistan, which Mattis said may take several weeks. But the question of sending additional troops is considered urgent in order to halt recent Taliban advances as another fighting season gets underway. The Taliban generally steps up violence in the warm months, when snows melt and roads become passable.

The top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Nicholson, has said a few thousand additional troops would be required to turn the tide on militants.

“We are not winning in Afghanistan right now,” Mattis told Congress this week.

Marine Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last month that it if the U.S. and NATO countries decide to increase forces they should be prepared to do so quickly.

“We’d like to see if we (can) contribute to the Afghans’ success in the summer of ’17,” Dunford said.

There are about 8,400 U.S. troops in Afghanistan now in addition to several thousand troops from allied countries. NATO forces are also expected to increase troop levels in Afghanistan.

The Pentagon has said that any troop increase would not change the mission of the forces there. Afghan security forces are leading the fight and U.S. and NATO troops are serving as advisers and providing air and other critical support.

The additional troops will allow the U.S.-led coalition to provide more advisers to Afghan combat units.

The U.S. had as many as 100,000 troops in Afghanistan in 2010 and 2011, but in 2013 turned over the primary responsibility for the war to Afghan forces. In recent years, security in the country declined as the U.S. continued to decrease forces.

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