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Although promising to wind-down the war in Afghanistan when first elected, President Obama just made a decision that will massively expand the war’s air operation, according to the Washington Post.
The new measures approved by Obama late last month will permit military leaders to send U.S. troops on battlefield missions with conventional Afghan forces, broadening an activity that now occurs only with elite local troops, and will expand the use of U.S. air power for offensive missions against the Taliban.
Officials said they will only be approved in limited circumstances when they are expected to have “strategic effect.”
“This added flexibility is fully supported by the Afghan government, and will help the Afghans at an important moment for the country,” said a senior administration official who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss decisions that have not been made public.
Obama’s decision comes after Army Gen. John W. “Mick” Nicholson Jr. requested the administration to further expand aggressive targeting of Taliban forces.
Back in 2013, Obama said “By the end of next year, America’s war in Afghanistan will be over.” That promise has obviously not be followed-through on.
Already, military officials inside the Obama administration are praising the move, the Post reported.
Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter, speaking at a conference on Friday, said the steps would provide Nicholson “some additional authority to act proactively” to help local forces. “It’s a good use of the combat power we have there,” he said.
Officials said that the new steps, whose details must now be fleshed out by military officials in Afghanistan, could, for example, allow Nicholson to send out U.S. personnel to call in air strikes with conventional forces when the Afghan government is conducting a specific offensive against enemy forces.
“This is not a blanket order to target the Taliban,” another official said.
But, a former Obama administration official seemed to admit that the president’s promise in 2013 to begin limiting the country’s presence in the region was purely for political appeal, the Post reported.
James F. Dobbins, who was Obama’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan from 2013 to 2014, said the new authorities were an acknowledgment that the administration’s earlier decision to limit the U.S. fight there to al-Qaeda hadn’t succeeded.
“It was a formula designed largely for its presentational appeal domestically, and it never made much sense strategically,” he said. “So I’m pleased they’ve reverted to a more normal approach: if [the Taliban] is going to continue to be at war with us, we’re going to be at war with them.”
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