National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster arrived Sunday in Kabul to review U.S. strategy in Afghanistan.
McMaster’s visit is the first of a senior Trump administration official to the country, where the U.S. has nearly 9,000 troops engaged in a train, advise, and assist mission. The current mission of backing the Afghan Security Forces in the fight against the Taliban is not going well.
The Afghan Security Forces are suffering unprecedented casualties, civilians are dying in the thousands, and the Taliban control more territory than at any time since the U.S. invasion in 2001. A December Pentagon assessment of the U.S. mission found that the scale of the problem is much larger than the current U.S. commitment, and the pace of the solution — training Afghan soldiers and then keeping them alive — is faltering dramatically.
The Pentagon also rated the U.S. backed Afghan Security Forces “promising but inconsistent” in their progress since the U.S. ended its combat mission in Afghanistan in 2014. The Taliban has proven adept at surrounding and besieging major cities, while consolidating rural areas.
The top U.S. generals in charge of Afghanistan have both indicated they want “a few thousand more troops” to bolster the effort of supporting the Afghan forces. The Trump administration has also scaled up the air campaign against the Taliban, best on display Thursday with the use of the largest non-nuclear bomb in the military’s arsenal on the Islamic State.
President Donald Trump scarcely spoke about the Afghan war on the campaign trail, and will now have to decide what the prolonged mission in the country will look like. He will have to decide what force level to maintain in Afghanistan, what rules of engagement the U.S. operates under, and how to deal with Pakistani government’s assistance to Taliban elements.
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