Close to two thousand U.S. troops will deploy to Afghanistan in the summer of 2017 as part of a regular rotation, at a time when Taliban insurgents control more territory than at any time since the war began in 2001.
The 1,700 troops will reportedly come from Fort Stewart, GA, and Fort Bragg, NC, to replace existing units already in the country, maintaining the level of troops at approximately 9,000. The announcement comes the same day as the Taliban’s declaration of the spring fighting season, which is traditionally a deadly period in the Afghan war.
The Taliban pledged to target U.S. forces with “conventional attacks, guerrilla warfare, complex martyrdom attacks, insider attacks,” and named their attack after their recently deceased leader Mullah Akthar Mansour. Mansour was killed in a U.S. drone strike in May, 2016, deep inside Pakistan. “The enemy will be targeted, harassed, killed or captured until they abandon their last posts,” the statement continued.
The announcement also follows the deaths of two U.S. Army Rangers in Afghanistan Thursday, killed on a raid against Islamic State elements in Nangarhar province. ISIS’s affiliate in Afghanistan has been reslient against U.S. and Afghan pressure, using the small amount of territory it controls to launch attacks on Kabul.
The Taliban are doing so well since the end of the U.S. combat mission in 2014 that the top U.S. generals in charge of the war believe they need more troops in the country. Both the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan and the head of U.S. Central Command told Congress in recent months more U.S. troops would be needed to finish the mission, in an implicit swipe at past U.S. policy. “I do believe it will involve additional forces to make the advise-and-assist mission more effective,” U.S. Army Gen. Joseph Votel told Congress Thursday.
The Afghan Security Forces are in the fight of their lives with the insurgent group, losing thousands of soldiers in the last two years. The U.S. has spent tens of billions training the Afghan forces, but the latest U.S. government audit reveals that “the Afghan government cannot survive without continued donor financial assistance.”
The Afghan’s also suffered their largest single day loss of life after Taliban insurgents were able to sneak onto a military base Apr 21. The attack killed nearly 140 soldiers and prompted the resignation of the top defense officials in the country.
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