The Pentagon Wants To Send Thousands More Troops Back to Afghanistan

news
Photo via DoD

The Department of Defense will ask the White House to order the deployment of between 3,000 and 5,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan to help break the “stalemate” with Taliban forces, officials told Congress on Thursday.


In a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, officials said the deployment, consisting primarily of special operations personnel, would be tasked with advising and training Afghan security forces and bolstering the war-weary central government for continued counterterrorism efforts, CNN reports.

The primary goal of the deployment 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,” Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations Theresa Whelan told lawmakers. "We want to maintain that partnership with Afghanistan and we want to ensure that Afghanistan reaches its potential, so that's the objective of the strategy.

Of the 13,300 troops currently fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan as part of the U.S.-led coalition, more than 8,400 are American.

The news comes on the heels of an unannounced visit by Defense Secretary James Mattis to Kabul late last month, to meet with top Afghan lawmakers and assess the Pentagon’s role in finally ending the 16-year-old war. The week before, National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster had surprised both Afghan and American officials in Kabul by showing up without warning.

"We are under no illusions about the challenges associated with this mission,” Mattis said in Kabul. “2017’s going to be another tough year for the valiant Afghan security forces and the international troops who have stood and will continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Afghanistan against terrorism and against those who seek to undermine the legitimate, United Nations-recognized government of this nation.”

Whelan’s choice of words is significant. In February, Army Gen. John W. Nicholson declared the battle against the Taliban and other jihadi groups in Afghanistan a “stalemate” in his own sobering SASC testimony, telling Congress he likely needed “a few thousand” additional troops to shore up Afghan security forces and rebuff the Taliban.

It’s not hard to understand their thinking. After 16 years of war (and a five-year “withdrawal” of U.S. forces), fatalities among security forces and casualties among civilians in Afghanistan are at record levels. Just before Mattis’ visit to Kabul in April, a five-hour-long suicide bombing and siege on a base left 40 Afghan troops killed and 150 wounded.

Leaning on SOCOM to steel Afghan security forces for a violent future may not be sustainable, however. While violent extremism remains a chief priority for U.S. Special Operation Command, Whelan told the SASC that growing commitments to threats like Russia, North Korea and China are stretching SOCOM’s 8,000-strong force thing.

“I think the concerns that we have mostly are in readiness across the force,” Whelan said. “We’ve been operating at such a high [operational] tempo for the last decade plus, and with budgets going down, what we’ve had to do is essentially … eat our young, so to speak.”

But these special operators won’t go it alone. In his SASC testimony, SOCOM chief Army Gen. Raymond A. Thomas III suggested that a mix of conventional forces will indirectly bolster special operators downrange: “More conventional forces that would thicken the ability to advise and assist Afghan forces — that would absolutely be to our benefit.”

Staff Sgt. Stevon A. Booker, a 3rd Infantry Division Soldier who was assigned to Company A, 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment and killed in action in Iraq in 2003, is depicted in a photo illustration alongside the Distinguished Service Cross medal, which he is slated to posthumously receive for his heroic actions during Operation Iraqi Freedom, April 5, 2018, in Pittsburgh, Pa. (U.S. Army)

Editor's Note: This article by Matthew Cox originally appeared onMilitary.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

The U.S. Army has announced it will upgrade a former 3rd Infantry Division soldier's Silver Star to a Distinguished Service Cross for his bravery during the unit's "Thunder Run" attack on Baghdad, Iraq, in 2003.

Read More Show Less
KCNA

HANOI (Reuters) - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un told the U.S. secretary of state he did not want his children to live with the burden of nuclear weapons, a former CIA officer involved in high-level diplomacy over the North's weapons was quoted as saying on Saturday.

Read More Show Less

An Oregon Air National Guard F-15C Eagle that made an emergency landing on Wednesday ditched its entire arsenal of live air-to-air missiles before touching down at Portland International Airport, The War Zone reports.

Read More Show Less

Several hundred U.S. troops will remain in Syria after allied forces clear ISIS fighters out of their last stronghold in the country, officials said on Friday.

President Donald Trump announced in December that he would withdraw all U.S. troops from Syria, but Sen. Lindsey Graham has since made a strong push to keep a small residual force along the Turkish border along with troops from European allies.

Read More Show Less
Chris Osman (Photo: _chris_osman_designs/Instagram)

The former Navy SEAL among a group of eight men arrested earlier this week in Port-au-Prince on weapons charges says he was providing security work "for people who are directly connected to the current President" of Haiti.

"We were being used as pawns in a public fight between him and the current Prime Minister of Haiti," said Chris Osman, 44, in a post on Instagram Friday. "We were not released we were in fact rescued."

Read More Show Less