Politics

Trump Weighs Option To Send 5,000 Troops To Afghanistan

| by Alex Scarr

President Donald Trump may soon send as many as 5,000 troops into Afghanistan in an effort to re-establish American power in the country.

A military official told NBC News Trump was considering an escalation of forces stationed in Afghanistan, among several other options presented to him by military leaders. A senior administration official said the decision would be made "soon."

One of the options presented to Trump was to allow Defense Secretary James Mattis to decide troop levels in Afghanistan, which could mean several thousand more troops and a rollback on Obama-era regulations, specifically rules about how the U.S. military can fight the Taliban.

The plan comes as Trump seeks to reverse worsening security in Afghanistan, as well as his desire to "start winning again" in the region, The Washington Post reports. Military officials seek to push a resurgent and confident Taliban back into negotiations.

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Trump is set to make a decision before the May 25 NATO summit in Brussels.

"The review is an opportunity to send a message that, yes, the U.S. is going to send more troops, but it’s not to achieve a forever military victory," said Andrew Wilder, an Afghanistan expert at the U.S. Institute of Peace. "Rather, it’s to try to bring about a negotiated end to this conflict."

The new strategy comes as a years-long stalemate with the Taliban appears to be thawing, jeopardizing U.S. interests in the region and destabilizing a fragile, sympathetic allied government in Afghanistan.

A troop count of 3,000 would be added to the 8,400 already stationed in the region, along with supporting NATO forces supplied by other countries. Funding would also be supplied to the government in Afghanistan for support and expansion. The total bill for the troops and aid spending would approach $23 billion, which is expected to heavily impact Trump's decision.

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Several Washington opponents to the troop increase have voiced their opinions, with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice asking Trump to better explain in plan for the region that has been mired in conflict for 15 years, according to NBC News.

"We've tried this before, we've tried to fortify our effort in Afghanistan under Republican and Democratic presidents, and the fact is we're still in a situation where the Taliban controls a massive part of the territory," Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois told MSNBC.

Speaking to Today, Rice said: "one of the first conversations needs to be with [Russian President] Vladimir Putin and to say, 'Do you really want to get back into Afghanistan after what happened to you before in Afghanistan?' There's no reason for the Russians to be arming the Taliban."

Sources: NBC News, The Washington Post / Photo credit: U.S. Armed Forces/Wikimedia Commons

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