Here We Go Again: US Moves To Expand Airstrikes In Afgahanistan

Posted: June 10, 2016 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , ,

Despite President Barack Obama’s claims to reduce the American military presence in Afghanistan, the US is close to expanding its military authority to conduct airstrikes in the region.

According to a senior US official who spoke on condition of anonymity, discussions within the Obama administration are moving toward expanding US military authority in Afghanistan to resume airstrikes, effectively extending what is the longest war in the history of the United States.

Started in 2001, after the 9/11 attacks, the American War in Afghanistan officially ended in 2014. That year, Obama called to “turn the page from conflicts that have dominated US foreign policy for more than a decade,” announcing a decision to leave a contingent of 9,800 American troops in Afghanistan, with a plan to further reduce the number to 5,500 by the end of 2016.

The move caused consternation among war advocates, including Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SD), calling the withdrawal a “monumental mistake and a triumph of politics over strategy.”

Now the Obama administration’s drawdowns are likely to be put aside, justified by escalating violence in Afghanistan. A resurgent Taliban has reportedly increased its activity in the southern part of Afghanistan, mostly in the provinces of Helmand, Kandahar and Uruzgan, and has sporadically conducting strikes elsewhere, including the northern province of Kunduz, killing approximately 3500 civilians in 2015.

When asked about the Pentagon’s views on Afghanistan, DoD spokesman Peter Cook answered cryptically, “In every step of our review of Afghanistan, the question of what’s the best way to use our forces is something we’re constantly looking at. It’s also in the same sense that we’re looking at the number of troops.”

The likely decision to extend US military authority over Afghanistan comes in light of the slow realization of any coherent official Afghan military, as well as the resilience of the Taliban. The number of US troops in the country will likely remain at the current 9,800 level, as favored by former top US commander in Afghanistan General John Campbell. The current top commander, General John Nicholson, has reportedly discussed his recommendations with Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, but details have not been disclosed.

During his participation in the recent G7 summit in Japan, President Obama said that he hopes that, at some point, the Taliban will “recognize that they are not going to simply be able to overrun the country” and that they will come to the negotiating table, a move that “the United States and others in the world community would support.”

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