Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will announce plans to send as many as 4,000 additional U.S. forces to Afghanistan next week in an attempt to help the withering Afghan military, the AP reports.
The U.S. currently has around 8,400 troops assisting the Afghan military in Afghanistan. They’re serving alongside another 5,000 troops from NATO forces. The increase in American boots on the ground is needed to slow the progress of the Taliban, Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday.
“The Taliban had a good year last year, and they’re trying to have a good one this year,” he said. Mattis added that additional U.S. troops would provide air and artillery support to Afghan forces, who have seen 5,000 killed in 2016 alone.
Mattis has only this week gained the power to set troop levels in Afghanistan, an authority granted by President Trump on Tuesday. The move drew harsh criticism from the New York Times editorial board, which said it “leaves the impression that he is cowed by the weighty responsibility of sending more Americans into battle, and is looking to put that onus on Mr. Mattis so he has somebody to blame if things go wrong.”
Other critics have questioned the wisdom of sending new troops to Afghanistan without a clearly defined strategy. At Tuesday’s hearing with Mattis, Senator John McCain emphasized the need for a plan. “We’re now six months into this administration,” he said. “We still haven’t got a strategy for Afghanistan. It makes it hard for us to support you when we don’t have a strategy.”
Another person who’s not so sure about Mattis’s plan to build up troops is the anonymous veteran who sent this depressing message to Washington Post reporter Thomas Gibbons-Neff.