The US military will ask the Donald Trump administration next week to deploy thousands more troops to Afghanistan, a senior official says.
US media have reported that the Pentagon will request between 3,000 and 5,000 conventional military personnel, mainly to advise and assist Afghan military and police units in the fight against the Taliban.
The Pentagon is also weighing a plan to deploy an unspecified number of Special Operations troops supposedly to escalate ground operations against al-Qaeda and Daesh (ISIL) militants.
“I expect that these proposals will go to the president within the next week,” Theresa Whelan, Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations, said in a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Thursday.
Whelan added that the goal is “to move beyond the stalemate and also to recognize that Afghanistan is a very important partner for the United States in a very tricky region.”
The US currently has around 8,400 soldiers in Afghanistan with about another 5,000 troops from NATO allies.
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 on hursday 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.
After becoming the president in 2008, President Barack Obama, a Democrat, vowed to end the Afghan war — one of the longest conflicts in US history – but he failed to keep his promise.
Trump, who has spoken against the Afghan war, has dubbed the 2001 invasion and following occupation of Afghanistan as “Obama’s war”.
But now the Trump administration is planning to deploy thousands of more troops to the war-torn country, signaling a policy shift.
According to analysts, Afghanistan today is “less secure than any time since the US invasion with one third of the country under Taliban control and a plethora of Takfiri terrorist groups infiltrating the territory.”