President Donald Trump will decide on a new strategy for the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan by the end of May, according to Department of Defense News, the Pentagon’s official news source.
Trump’s new plan will attempt to break the so-called “stalemate” with Taliban forces. Army Gen. John Nicholson, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, recently briefed the NATO Military Committee on the situation, allowing members to provide input before the strategy is finalized. Details regarding Trump’s new strategy have been scarce since the president took office, though Secretary of Defense James Mattis and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster both paid visits to Afghanistan in April, ostensibly to get a first-hand account of the situation.
“The Afghans have been in the lead for the last two years, taking casualties and demonstrating some strengths, but in other areas demonstrating they need more work,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford told reporters Wednesday.
The Afghan National Security Forces have taken massive casualties in the last year as the Taliban continue to make a resurgence. The Afghan government controls and influences only 60 percent of the country’s districts, according to a Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) report published on April 30. The Taliban controls and influences 11 percent of the districts, while 29 percent remain in contention.
Nicholson told the Senate Committee on Armed Services in February that he would need more than the 13,000 troops currently stationed in Afghanistan to break the stalemate. The general did not say exactly how many troops he would need, though the White House is reportedly considering sending an additional 5,000.
Nicholson’s plan is based on Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s four-year strategy. It calls for securing 80 percent of the Afghan population, in addition to achieving other economic and political goals. Dunford said he wants NATO partners to review Nicholson’s strategy. NATO leaders are also considering allowing their forces to advise and assist the ANSF at a more local level. Currently, most NATO support happens at the Corps level.
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