Pentagon to Submit New Afghanistan Strategy to White House as Early as Next Week

Considering deployment of up to 5,000 more troops

The US commander in Afghanistan John Nicholson talks with soldiers
The US commander in Afghanistan John Nicholson talks with soldiers / Getty Images
May 4, 2017

The Defense Department will deliver an updated Afghanistan strategy proposal to the White House within the next week detailing the military's tactics in the region, senior leaders of the force told Congress on Thursday.

Pentagon officials are considering the deployment of up to 5,000 more troops to Afghanistan to contribute to mounting advise and assist operations with local military forces who are combatting the Taliban.

"We are actively looking at adjustments to the approach in Afghanistan right now, I expect that these proposals will go to the president within the next week," Theresa Whelan, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for special operations, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee. "The interest is to move beyond the stalemate and also to recognize that Afghanistan is a very important partner to the United States in a very tricky region."

Army Gen. John Nicholson, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, told senators in February that U.S.-led coalition efforts in the country had reached a "stalemate." Nicholson said U.S. forces or its NATO allies needed to contribute a "few thousand" more troops to the joint advise and assist mission.

The United States and NATO currently have nearly 12,500 troops on the ground, with American forces contributing roughly 8,500 military personnel.

Gen. Raymond Thomas, the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, told senators on Thursday that his force has an adequate number of troops on the ground to carry out counterterrorism operations. He said the updated Pentagon strategy needs to lay out a plan that reinforces America's "enduring" presence in the country.

Defense Secretary James Mattis made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan last month after a deadly Taliban attack on an Afghan army base that killed more than 140 local troops. He said the war would continue for the foreseeable future and predicted another "tough year."

Thomas, who recently returned from a visit to the country, said while the situation on the ground remains at a standstill, U.S. officials need to recognize that the military has so far accomplished its mission of preventing another attack emanating from Afghanistan.

"It is admittedly a very tough fight and we're beginning yet another fighting season," Thomas testified before the committee. "I would offer though in terms of stalemate, the one objective we had for why we went there in the first place that we've accomplished over the past 15 and a half years is the avoidance of another attack from that area."

Published under: Afghanistan