Significant Increase Sought In U.S. Role In Afghan War

Tuesday, May 9th 2017, 4:39 am
By: News 9

The United States role in the war in Afghanistan would significantly increase under proposals to be presented soon to President Trump, sources tell CBS News.

The sources say the Pentagon wants more allied troops and the White House wants most of them to come from NATO. The sources also say the Pentagon is seeking the authority to set U.S. troop levels as well as permission for conventional forces to go after the Taliban, not just train Afghan troops to do so.

The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan told Congress in February he needs a "few thousand" more troops to properly train and advise the Afghan military so they can eventually operate independently.

Nicholson told the panel the extra forces could come from the U.S. or other countries that are part of the American-led coalition in Afghanistan.

There are currently about 8,400 U.S. troops conducting counterterrorism operations against insurgents and training the Afghans.

CBS News correspondent Margaret Brennan reports the Pentagon and Afghan officials have asked the president for the additional troops.

But Brennan says the Pentagon also wants increased authority for conventional troops to strike the Taliban, as well as greater use of U.S. intelligence to go after the Taliban with the same ferocity as they use against ISIS. Right now, only U.S. Special Operations forces can pursue the Taliban directly.

CBS News correspondent Cami McCormick cites a high-ranking military official as saying under the strategy shift, the Pentagon would decide U.S. troop levels. The White House currently does so.

McCormick also says the Trump administration wants NATO to contribute the majority of the additional troops. The U.S. would then backfill those numbers to arrive at troop levels senior commanders want.

Brennan says Mr. Trump is supposed to be presented with the recommendations this week but a decision may not be announced until a NATO summit in Brussels at month's end that he plans to attend.

The Washington Post, citing U.S. officials, reported Monday that the widening of the U.S. military role would be "part of a broader effort to push an increasingly confident and resurgent Taliban back to the negotiating table."

However, CBS News correspondent Major Garrett says senior administration officials tell him and Brennan the U.S. is much more interested in new methods, new tactics and -- they hope -- new results against the Taliban than bringing it to the bargaining table.

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