US President Donald Trump is weighing up whether to send more troops to Afghanistan as officials say the political and security situation will “almost certainly” continue to worsen in the war-torn country.
Trump’s advisers are reportedly urging him to allow some 3,000 to 5,000 additional troops to be sent to Afghanistan, adding to the 8,400 already stationed in the country.
Trump is expected to make the decision later this month during his travel to NATO in Brussels, and Pentagon chief Jim Mattis said he would give his own recommendation “very shortly.”
According to The New York Times, Trump is close to signing off on the recommendation, which is the result of a broad review by the Pentagon, the State Department, intelligence community and other government agencies on the Afghan war.
“What we will have at the end of this next few weeks here is an opportunity for a much more effective strategy for the problem set in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the region broadly,” said Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster.
The US officials say the American military needs a bigger role in Afghanistan to push the Taliban militant group back to the negotiating table. They have also called for authority to target Taliban leaders with airstrikes.
Dan Coats, Trump’s director of national intelligence, said that “we assess that the Taliban is likely to continue to make gains, especially in rural areas.”
“Unless we change something… the situation will continue to deteriorate and we’ll lose all the gains that we’ve invested in over the last several years,” Defense Intelligence Agency chief General Vincent Stewart told lawmakers this week.
The US-led occupying force officially announced to end its combat operations against the Taliban in the country at the end of 2014, and its current mission is to “train, advise, and assist” Afghan troops.
The United States — under Republican George W. Bush’s presidency — and its allies invaded Afghanistan on October 7, 2001 as part of Washington’s so-called war on terror. The offensive removed the Taliban regime from power, but after more than one and-a-half-decade, the foreign troops are still being deployed to the country.