CIA paramilitary forces are expanding partner operations in Afghanistan to hunt and kill high level Taliban operatives, The New York Times reports.
These CIA missions will reportedly include both paramilitary personnel of the CIA along with U.S. special operations forces detailed to the agency for specific missions. The use of special operations forces allows hunter killer teams to call in air support, if necessary, as they hunt Taliban bomb-makers across the country.
The loosening of restrictions on CIA ground operations in Afghanistan is part of a broader push by President Donald Trump’s administration to accelerate pressure on Taliban militants. Trump previously loosened CIA drone strike rules in Afghanistan that will now allow for some civilian casualties relative to the importance of the target.
The U.S. will adopt a conditions not timeline based approach in Afghanistan with an overall strategy to push Taliban militants to the negotiating table with the Afghan national government, Trump declared in an Aug 21 address. The Taliban, however, have little reason to negotiate after banner years in the Afghan war. The group controls more territory than at any time since the U.S. invasion in 2001 along with nearly a third of the Afghan population.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis authorized the deployment of an additional 3,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan after Trump’s speech and the U.S. is dropping a record number of bombs to try to demoralize the group.
“We’ll be here as long as it takes until you change your mind,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said recently in a message to the Taliban. He delivered a similar message to the Taliban in the wake of Trump’s August speech, telling the State Department press corps: “You will not win a battlefield victory. We may not win one, but neither will you.”
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