Move to beef up troops in Afghanistan could involve Fort Drum soldiers

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In fact, thousands of more troops might soon be deployed to Afghanistan to help support Afghan forces in the battle against the Taliban. The rising threat posed by Islamic State extremists, evidenced in a rash of deadly attacks in the capital city of Kabul, has only fueled calls for a stronger USA presence, as have several recent American combat deaths. We recalled the reason why our nation sent troops to Afghanistan originally, noting that we invaded the country in October 2001 in response to the Taliban government's refusal to hand over Osama bin Laden, the founder of al-Qaeda and supposed mastermind of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

This comes after Mattis's testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee earlier on Tuesday in which he pressed for troop increases to combat a "surging" Taliban.

Earlier this week President Trump delegated that authority to Mattis, delegating an authority that had resided at the White House during the George W. Bush and Obama administrations.

There are more than 8,400 American troops in Afghanistan with a mission of training, advising and assisting the Afghan military in its fight against the Taliban and the ISIS affiliate in Afghanistan.

The strategy will be "one that takes into account Afghanistan as part of South Asia", Mattis said, adding that "9/11 taught us the cost of not paying attention to this problem".

The decision to drop a 21,000-pound bomb, known as the Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB), in eastern Afghanistan in April did nothing to change the trajectory of a conflict that, from the American perspective, has been heading in the wrong direction.

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The authorized USA troop level in Afghanistan is about 8,400 but the SecDef said the current number of troops on the ground is a "little under 10,000", possibly because of overlap in troop rotations.

While the Trump administration may not be going fast enough in developing a more "winning" strategy in Afghanistan for McCain's liking, it is apparent that the hawkish McCain's disagreement with Mattis and Trump is more over timing than major substantive points, including whether USA troops should be in Afghanistan at all. Afghan leaders endorse the idea of more US troops, having lost significant ground to the Taliban in recent months.

Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., voiced concerns about civilian control of the military and said Trump's delegation of authority to set troop levels to the military gave him pause.

"We're not looking at a purely military strategy", he said.

The move is another sign of the flexibility the Trump administration has given US military commanders.

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