National Security

Obama Ignored Military Advice On Troop Levels In Afghanistan

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Saagar Enjeti White House Correspondent

President Obama ignored the advice of all his military commanders when he drew down troop levels in Afghanistan to 8,400, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain told Fox News Wednesday.

“When the president goes against their recommendations, and reduces by 1,400, then some of those missions and capabilities have to go away,” McCain said. “That puts the American men and women who are serving in jeopardy, and, by the way, in greater risk. They don’t have sufficient rules of engagement … and numbers to carry out the task that they need to in order to prevail and stabilize Afghanistan.”

He came into office with a goal of completely ending a U.S. presence in Afghanistan, planning on reducing all U.S. personnel to approximately 1000 troops within the U.S. embassy of Kabul. After the end of the NATO combat mission in Afghanistan in 2014, the Taliban made unprecedented gains against the Afghan security forces.

Obama then revised his plan in October 2015 to drawdown troops to 5500 troops by the end of his presidency, but announced Wednesday he would leave 8,400 in the country. His military advisers objected, according to McCain, advising instead that he keep the current level of 9,800.

Since Obama’s announcement in October 2015, the security situation has further deteriorated. Afghan security forces have surged in casualties, and the Taliban controls more territory in Afghanistan than at any point since the U.S. invasion in 2001. McCain’s statement makes clear President Obama’s senior military commanders, including commanding general John Nicholson in Afghanistan, all requested the U.S. keep its current presence of 9800 troops to assist the Afghan defense forces.

President Obama issued new rules of engagement for U.S. forces in Afghanistan in mid-June. Under the new rules of engagement the U.S. can accompany Afghan forces when they’re offensively pursuing the Taliban to achieve a “strategic gain.” Under the old rules of engagement the U.S. was only allowed to intervene on behalf of the Afghan defense forces when it was about to suffer a particularly devastating military setback.

“The ANSF is unprepared to counter the Taliban militants’ summer campaign,” the Institute for the Study of War noted in April 2016.The Taliban captured the major city of Kunduz in October of 2015 marking the first such victory since the beginning of U.S. combat operations in 2001.

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