Al Jazeera – 2016-06-12 02:13:00
US Widens Military Role in Afghanistan to Fight Taliban
White House says plan includes “advice and assistance” as well as “occasional” operations against Taliban forces
(June 10, 2016) — The White House has announced the expansion of the US military’s role in Afghanistan to fight the Taliban, ratcheting up a 15-year conflict President Barack Obama had vowed to end. Josh Earnest, Obama’s press secretary, said on Friday that US forces will play a “more proactive” role in helping local troops “be more effective in the battlefield”.
Earnest said US support will come in the form of “advice and assistance” to Afghan military, as well as “occasionally accompanying them in their operations”.
Afghan forces have struggled to contain the Taliban, which has carried out numerous attacks, including in the Afghan capital Kabul. But Earnest denied that Obama is “restarting” the US combat role there, which ended in 2014.
At least 9,800 US forces have remained in an advisory role in Afghanistan since the start of 2015, and were only authorized to hit Taliban targets for defensive reasons, or to protect Afghan troops.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the order was issued to General Sean MacFarland, US commander in Afghanistan.
Al Jazeera‘s Rosiland Jordan, reporting from Washington DC, said the US defense department had wanted to carry out the plan for months.
“The concern about the resurgence of the Taliban has been growing in the Pentagon,” Jordan said. The plan also includes “strategic strikes” against the Taliban in order to weaken it, while shoring up the Afghan troops’ ability to defend the country, she said.
As the “summer fighting season” comes in high gear, the US wants to make sure the Afghan military “would not be caught short,” Jordan added.
Obama was elected in 2008, promising to end one of America’s longest and most grueling wars. The first US troops arrived in Afghanistan 15 years ago, after the Taliban government refused to turn over Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the September 11, 2001 attacks, and more than 2,000 US personnel have died in the ensuing war.
At the peak of the US deployment in Afghanistan, around 100,000 American soldiers were stationed across the country in March 2011. The campaign to neutralize the Taliban has suffered multiple setbacks in the twilight of Obama’s presidency.
More than 5,000 Afghan troops died last year alone, prompting Obama to indefinitely postpone the withdrawal of US troops. Obama’s latest Afghan decision would appear to push any brokered solution well beyond his presidency.
The Afghan War and the Feeling of Abandonment
The conflict with the Taliban looks unlikely to end any time soon. Afghans are losing hope their situation will improve
Qais Azimy / Reporter’s Notebook: Al Jazeera
KABUL (May 2, 2016) — It is difficult waiting for bad news to do your work.
I have been a journalist in Afghanistan for more than 15 years, reporting on many different subjects. Sometimes the news is happy and sometimes upsetting.
I have always loved my job. Every day brings a new challenge, new subjects, and new people to meet.
The 2001 US invasion has dramatically changed the way Afghans live in a way they could not have imagined. Young people started getting educated. For a lucky few, it meant political power. For others, wealth came in different ways, not abnormal in a war-torn country: drug money, corruption, military contracts, property and even professional work.
Many others lost everything: their lives, family members, homes, social status and even their own body parts.
But I don’t think I’ve ever seen people as disappointed as they are today.
Wherever you go, the subjects of the conversations are related to the attacks and how to get out of the country. Very few are optimistic about the future. People are concerned about whether they’ll be next or whether their family members will be safe.
As an Afghan journalist, it feels like all you are doing is waiting for the next Taliban attack or the response to the next attack.
Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani has called for a new chapter in the fight against the Taliban. He said there’ll be no mercy. The government will implement outstanding death-penalty decisions that have been pending for years.
The Taliban has threatened retaliation if their captives are executed. Whatever happens, Afghan civilians will pay the highest price.
In the meantime, the attacks continue. More than 40 Taliban members were killed in a failed attempt to seize the city of Kunduz last month. Many here feel the international community has lost interest in the country and that Afghan blood doesn’t matter any more.
The feeling of abandonment is snatching away any hope people had. It’s a feeling palpable across the country.
Qais Azimy is Al Jazeera English’s senior producer in Kabul.
Has US Foreign Policy Failed in Afghanistan and Iraq?
Armed groups have made comebacks in Iraq and Afghanistan following Obama administration’s policy to withdraw troops
(October 3, 2015) — The US military has acknowledged it may have been responsible for an air strike that hit a hospital in Kunduz killing several people and injuring dozens more.
Afghan forces — backed by American air power — have been trying to push out Taliban fighters from the city — after the armed group seized it in less than 24 hours. And it is that success that is worrying the Afghan government and its Western sponsors.
It also has echoes of recent battles in Iraq, where another US-trained army collapsed in combat despite large support from Washington. So has the Obama administration’s unwillingness to keep boots on the ground in Afghanistan and Iraq
resulted in power vacuums allowing armed groups to grow in strength?
Presenter: Sami Zeidan
Omar Samad — Senior Adviser to Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah
Jaber al-Jaberi — Member of Iraq’s Parliament
Kirk Sowell — Publisher, Inside Iraqi Politics
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