The Pentagon will send almost 4,000 additional American troops to Afghanistan in order to break a stalemate in a 16-year-long war, according to the Associated Press, citing a “Trump administration official.”
The official told the AP that the move by Defense Secretary James Mattis could be announced “as early as next week.” A U.S. official told Breitbart News that “no decisions have been made yet.”
The potential decision comes after Mattis confirmed to Congress on Wednesday that President Trump gave him the authority to alter the level of U.S. forces able to deploy to the country.
The move reversed an Obama administration policy that had the president set troop levels. Former President Obama had expected to draw down all but a small embassy presence by the time he left office in 2017, but ended up leaving 8,400 U.S. troops in place after the Taliban made a comeback.
Mattis in a statement said having the authority to change the troop levels did not in itself mean a change. However, he reportedly supports a plan recommended by the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan to add between 3,000 to 5,000 more forces. National Security Adviser Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster also reportedly supports that plan.
The official said the bulk of the forces would go towards training and advising Afghan forces, and a smaller number would go to the counterterror mission against the Taliban and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
Mattis demurred from talking about any strategy during hearings this week, only saying a strategy would be ready in mid-July. The silence, along with news of a troop increase, rankled foreign policy experts on both sides of the aisle.
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A senior White House official told Breitbart News in May that others in the White House have been advising the president not to increase troop levels, use special operations forces to train Afghans, and conduct a counterterrorism mission — versus nation building or the war with the Taliban.
Since Obama began withdrawing U.S. troops in 2011 and declared the U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan over in 2014, the Taliban has made a comeback and now controls roughly a third of the country.