The Donald Trump administration is considering plans to deploy as many as 5,000 additional American to Afghanistan, a move that could signal a strategy shift years after the US officially ended its combat mission in the country, officials say.
The options, under review by the , include between 3,000 and 5,000 conventional personnel to advise and assist Afghan and police units in the fight against the Taliban, according to a report by the Times.
The is also weighing a plan to deploy an unspecified number of Special Operations supposedly to escalate ground operations against al-Qaeda and Daesh (ISIL) militants along the Pakistan border.
Two US Rangers were killed last week, possibly by friendly fire, during a raid on a purported Daesh position in the volatile border area. Another US was killed there earlier this month.
US Gen. John Nicholson, the commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, has submitted his recommendation for a boost of a “few thousand” in the war-torn country, US officials in Kabul said.
Nicholson’s recommendation follows separate visits to Afghanistan by two key administration officials, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster and Jim Mattis.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani (R) addresses US James Mattis (2nd R) and his delegation at the presidential palace in Kabul on April 24, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
The White House is expected to reach a decision in coming weeks and announce any strategy shifts at the NATO security summit in Brussels later this month.
Last week, the Taliban announced the start of its “spring offensive”, a heightened campaign of bombings, ambush attacks, and other raids that begin as weather conditions improve.
Afghanistan is still suffering from insecurity and violence years after the United States and its allies invaded the country as part of Washington’s so-called war on terror. The 2001 invasion removed the Taliban from power, but their militancy continues to this day.
US returned to the southern province of Helmand, where NATO forces faced intense fighting until 2014, Gen. Nicholson announced Saturday.
About 300 will form part of the so-called Operation Resolute Support, described by NATO as a “train, advise, and assist” mission consisting of over 13,000 .
The US currently has around 8,400 in Afghanistan with about another 5,000 from NATO allies.