Obama Approves Broader Role for US Forces in Afghanistan against Taliban

As the United States braces for an especially bloody summer fighting season in Afghanistan, President Barack Obama inched closer this week to allowing US forces to once again directly battle the Taliban, loosening restrictions on airstrikes and on ground combat in support of Afghan forces, the administration said on Friday.

Defense officials say that new orders will allow US troops to embed with all Afghan troops, not just their special forces.

The U.S. has continued to conduct counterterrorism strikes against al-Qaida and Islamic State militants in Afghanistan.

The move, which will allow troops to provide Afghan forces with "close-air" support against hostile targets, illustrates US concern about the abilities of Afghan forces to hold their own in the counterterrorism fight on their soil.

"US forces will more proactively support Afghan conventional forces", a senior administration official told AFP on Friday.

United States troops arrived in Afghanistan 15 years ago, after the Taliban government refused to turn over 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden.

More than 5,000 Afghan troops died a year ago, prompting Obama to postpone indefinitely the withdrawal of USA troops. "Afghanistan is a risky country".

How widely commanders apply the "strategic effect" measure will determine the extent to which the authorities thrust the United States back into operations like those it conducted before Obama ended formal combat operations at the close of 2014.

While he declined to comment on how many American troops he thinks should remain in Afghanistan, his new warning could increase the pressure on Obama to reconsider his timeline for reducing the US force in Afghanistan from about 9,800 today to 5,500 by the time he leaves office in January.

The Taliban said the US change is futile.

So the question that remains is what did we gain in Afghanistan, or more importantly, what did we lose? However, U.S. commanders say an effective air force is at least three years away.



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