by Julia Arciga, @JuliaArciga
President Obama has authorized the easing of restrictions in the campaign against the Taliban in Afghanistan. Per request of personnel on the ground, U.S. military will now have the agency to attack the militant group more aggressively and combat its resurgence.
Rather than have airstrikes solely in defense of U.S. troops, the president has now authorized the use of airstrikes to support Afghan offensives against the Taliban for “strategic gain.” It would also allow U.S. troops to accompany and lend advice to conventional Afghan forces, rather than just elite ones.
This move is seemly contrasting to the president’s earlier promises to take American troops out of Afghanistan, making this move a “politically sensitive” one. This decision is said to be vital to the commander-in-chief's eventual goal, however, due to the fact that the terror group’s mounting strength has stalled efforts to exit the country.
The restrictions were originally put in place during peace talks between the Taliban and Afghanistan, which mandated that U.S. forces would only engage if U.S. troops were in danger, it was clear that the Taliban was providing support to al-Qaeda, and if the Taliban posed a threat to Afghan forces. U.S. forces have struggled to move within these parameters, even when taken broadly. Since the peace talks have fallen apart and the Taliban has been ramping up its attacks, the restrictions have been retracted and offensive support is now fair game.
An official noted however that this “is not a blanket order to target the Taliban." There have been contrasting reports about how many troops will be present in the Afghan war once President Obama steps down: some news outlets say that about 5,500 will be present by January 2017, while others say that the White House has been tight-lipped and has decided to delay the decision.
The dynamic forces in the Afghan region have complicated matters for the White House and Pentagon alike, and it’s abundantly clear that a smooth exit will not be an easy feat for this president--or the next--to accomplish.
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