“I do believe it will involve additional forces to ensure that we can make the advise-and-assist mission more effective.”
Gen. Joseph Votel, the general in charge of the U.S. Central Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he needs more troops in Afghanistan to break a stalemate:
“We are developing a strategy, and we are in discussions with the secretary and the department right now,” Gen. Joseph Votel told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “I do believe it will involve additional forces to ensure that we can make the advise-and-assist mission more effective.”
Votel did not specify how many more troops America needs to send. It’s doubtful we will know until Defense Secretary James Mattis makes a final decision.
Right now America has 8,400 soldiers in Afghanistan. These troops serve “on a dual mission of training, advising and assisting Afghan forces in their fight against the Taliban and conducting counterterrorism missions against groups such as al Qaeda.”
America also has 10,000 contractors in the country to help “in logistical and maintenance roles.”
None of these people actually participate in combat, only provide support and training. Only some thousand “Americans are dedicated only to hunting terrorist targets from organizations like the Islamic State group or al-Qaida [sic].”
Votel’s testimony mirrors the one Gen John Nicholson, the top U.S. general in Afghanistan, gave the same committee last month. He acknowledged a stalemate in Afghanistan and that he has “a shortfall of a few thousand” soldiers. But it’s not necessarily to fight. Instead, he needs “troops to train and advise the Afghans.” The advisors in Afghanistan work “at the command level of army corps.” Nicholson wants more advisors “at lower levels in the chain of command, specifically Afghan brigades.”
A resurgence in al-Qaeda and Taliban and an ISIS presence in the country has put pressure on these war planners to form a new plan for “the embattled nation, but particularly in the militant group’s traditional strongholds in the country’s northern and southern regions.”
ISIS took responsibility for an attack on a hospital in Kabul, the capital, on Wednesday:
More than 30 people died Wednesday after terrorists disguised as doctors broke through the building’s gates and gunned down patients and medical staff. More than 70 others were wounded.
The strike in one of Kabul’s most secure neighborhoods set off clashes with Afghan forces that continued for hours, with some patients climbing out of the building and sheltering on window ledges.
But experts state that the Taliban and its ally the Haqqani Network remain the bigger threat:
“While disturbing, [Wednesday’s attack] should not be mistaken for the rise in ISIS,” said Theo Farrell, a professor of war and Dean of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of London.
“All the evidence suggests that [ISIS has] been contained in Kandahar,” he said, referring to a province in the east of the country. “And while there are ISIS cells in other parts of Afghanistan, the country is very hostile ground for them.”
Nicholson brought up the Taliban in his February testimony. He stressed to the committee that Russia wants to “legitimize the Taliban” in Afghanistan as a way “to undermine the United States and NATO. From The Hill:
“The Russian involvement this year has become more difficult,” Gen. John Nicholson told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “First, they have begun to publicly legitimize the Taliban. This narrative that they promote is that the Taliban are fighting Islamic State and the Afghan government is not fighting Islamic State and that therefore there could be spillover of this group into the region. This is a false narrative.”
“I believe its intent is to undermine the United States and NATO,” he later added.
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