widens post-2014 combat role for U.S. forces in Afghanistan
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[November 24, 2014]
By Steve Holland and Mirwais Harooni
WASHINGTON/KABUL (Reuters) - President
Barack Obama has approved plans to give U.S. military commanders a wider
role to fight the Taliban alongside Afghan forces after the current
mission ends next month, a senior administration official said.
The decision made in recent weeks extends previous plans by
authorizing U.S. troops to carry out combat operations against the
Taliban to protect Americans and support Afghanistan's security
forces as part of the new ISAF Resolute Support mission next year.
Obama had announced in May that U.S. troop levels would be cut to
9,800 by the end of the year, by half again in 2015 and to a normal
embassy presence with a security assistance office in Kabul by the
end of 2016.
Under that plan, only a small contingent of 1,800 U.S. troops was
limited to counter terrorism operations against remnants of al
Qaeda. The new orders will also allow operations against the
"To the extent that Taliban members directly threaten the United
States and coalition forces in Afghanistan or provide direct support
to al Qaeda, we will take appropriate measures to keep Americans
safe," the official said.
A report by the New York Times late on Friday said the new
authorization also allows the deployment of American jets, bombers
The announcement was welcomed by Afghan police and army commanders
after heavy losses against the Taliban this summer.
"This is the decision that we needed to hear ... We could lose
battles against the Taliban without direct support from American
forces," said Khalil Andarabi, police chief for Wardak province,
about an hour's drive from the capital and partly controlled by the
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Afghan government forces remain in control of all 34 provincial
capitals but are suffering a high rate of casualties, recently
described as unsustainable by a U.S. commander in Afghanistan.
More than 4,600 Afghan force members have been killed since the
start of the year, 6.5 percent more than a year ago. Despite being
funded with more than $4 billion in aid this year, police and
soldiers frequently complain they lack the resources to fight the
Taliban on their own.
"Right now we donít have heavy weapons, artillery and air support.
If Americans launch their own operations and help us, too, then we
will be able to tackle Taliban,Ē said senior police detective
Asadullah Insafi in eastern Ghazni province.
The Taliban said it is undeterred by the U.S. announcement.
"They will continue their killings, night raids and dishonor to the
people of Afghanistan in 2015. It will only make us continue our
jihad," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujajhid said.
(Writing by Jessica Donati; Editing by David Goodman)
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