Pentagon sending more troops to Afghanistan

By Danielle Haynes Follow @DanielleHaynes1 Contact the Author   |   Updated Aug. 31, 2017 at 8:43 PM
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Aug. 31 (UPI) -- Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Thursday said the Pentagon is sending more troops to Afghanistan to boost the 11,000 already there.

Mattis told reporters the reinforcements would advise and "enable the Afghan forces to fight more effectively" against the Taliban and other terror groups in the country.

He didn't reveal specifics, like how many new troops would be sent to Afghanistan or when. He said he would reveal more information after briefing members of Congress next week.

"I've signed orders, but it's not complete. In other words, I've signed some of the troops that will go and we're identifying the specific ones," Mattis said.

Gen. John Nicholson, the top coalition commander in Afghanistan, has said it would take a few thousand more troops to break a stalemate in the war, USA Today reported. And last week, President Donald Trump indicated the United States must recommit to the war in Afghanistan, and White House officials said he plans to increase troop levels there by about 4,000.

"We will not talk about numbers of troops or our plans for further military activities," Trump on Aug. 21 in a speech at Fort Myer in Arlington, Va. "Conditions on the ground, not arbitrary timetables, will guide our strategy from now on. America's enemies must never know our plans or believe they can wait us out. I will not say when we are going to attack, but attack we will."

Trump, who ran for president on a platform that expressed skepticism of the U.S.'s interventionist foreign policy, also said that being president changed his opinions on what would be the best strategy going forward.

"My original instinct was to pull out, and historically I like following my instincts," Trump said. "But all my life, I have heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office. In other words, when you are president of the United States."

Instead of pulling out, Trump said he now believes "the consequences of a rapid exit are both predictable and unacceptable" and that a "hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum that terrorists, including [the Islamic State] and al-Qaida, would instantly fill, just as happened before September 11."

On Wednesday, the Pentagon acknowledged there are about 2,600 more U.S. troops in Afghanistan than they had publicly revealed over the past six months. Marine Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie Jr. said there are about 11,000 troops in Afghanistan, not the 8,400 figure the Department of Defense previously gave.

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