Up to 5K US Troops May Head to Afghanistan: Officials

Trump still needs to approve new Taliban plan worked up by military, foreign policy advisers
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 9, 2017 1:24 PM CDT
US Weighs Getting in Deeper in Afghanistan, Sending 5K Troops
In this April 14, 2017, file photo, Afghan commandos arrive at Pandola village near the site of a US bombing in the Achin district of Jalalabad, east of Kabul, Afghanistan.   (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul, File)

The Trump administration has slowly changed course on initiatives set by former President Obama, and the 15-year war Afghanistan has just been added to the list. The Washington Post reports high-level US military and foreign policy advisers have created a new blueprint for dealing with the Taliban, which would let the Pentagon, not the White House, take the lead on how it wants to use airstrikes, as well as the number of US troops. Anonymous senior officials tell the New York Times between 3,000 and 5,000 more US soldiers could be sent to Afghanistan, with US advisers closer to the front lines. The plan, which would reverse Obama's goal of reducing US military presence there, emerged after a review by the Pentagon, the State Department, US intel, and other agencies on how to break the war's "stalemate," as Gen. John W. Nicholson, Afghanistan's top US commander, has called it.

Even though one US official says this strategy has been tailor-made for Trump's push to "start winning" again, it's anyone's guess how Trump himself may come down, as he seems caught between isolationist tendencies and what the Post calls a "delight" in using military power to fight terrorism. Those in the White House who are wary call the plan "McMaster's War"—a snarky reference to HR McMaster, Trump's national security adviser who's said to be the impetus behind the strategy. Critics say increased efforts will cost the US billions of dollars, with no guarantee of Taliban concessions, and even plan advocates say the goal is to make small inroads that don't destroy the Taliban, but simply convince them to negotiate. Trump's final decision is expected to come before he heads to a May 25 NATO summit in Brussels. (More than 100 Afghan soldiers were recently killed at a military base.)

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