Expressing concern over the security situation in Afghanistan, US President Barack Obama has approved broader role for his troops stationed in the war-torn country to help Afghan forces effectively carry out anti-terrorism operations.
“What these authorities will allow is it will allow US forces to engage in similar efforts to accompany conventional Afghan security forces when they undertake operations,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters at his daily news conference yesterday.
“What this would allow is the US forces to be more proactive in supporting conventional Afghan forces as they take the fight to the Taliban. And this means, in some cases, offering close air support, or it means, in some cases, accompanying Afghan forces on the ground or in the air,” Earnest explained.
Noting that to this point, US forces and NATO partners have, in some situations, been accompanying Afghan special operators, Earnest said this authority would allow the American forces to accompany conventional Afghan forces in certain situations, but when they’re accompanying them, they continue remain focused on the advice-and-assist mission that they’ve been carrying out now for almost two years.
The US, he said, continues to be concerned about the security situation in Afghanistan. “Afghanistan is a dangerous country. It has been for some time now, and it still is today,” he said.
“I don’t think anybody, from the President on down, was under the illusion that after a couple of years of being responsible for the security situation of their own country, that the Afghan government and Afghan security forces would eliminate entirely the threat from the Taliban or any other extremists in that country,” Earnest said.
The White House Press Secretary praised the Afghan security forces for a remarkable willingness to fight for their country. The forces are resilient, even in those situations where they do encounter operational or even strategic setbacks, he asserted.
“There’s been a willingness on the part of the Afghan forces to reorganise and take the fight back to their adversaries. Some of that is evidence of a successful effort on the part of the United States and our NATO partners to train Afghan forces, but some of that is also the built-in national pride of Afghan security forces to fight for their country and to counter the threat from extremists,” Earnest said.
Noting that when the Taliban carries out a bombing in Kabul or anywhere in the country, most of the victims are
Afghans, Earnest said so it makes sense that Afghan security forces would feel, as a point of national pride, a desire to eradicate those violent extremists from the midst of their country.
“That resilience and that commitment to fighting for their country has shown on the battlefield. The question I think has simply been, what else can the US do to support them in those efforts?The President feels strongly that the Afghans must remain in control of the security situation in their own country,” he said.
The US combat role in Afghanistan ended at the end of 2014, and the President is not considering restarting it, he added.
“But the question is, is it possible for us to be more proactive in supporting conventional Afghan security forces? And we anticipate that by offering them more support in the form of advice and assistance, and occasionally accompanying them on their operations, that they are likely to be more effective on the battlefield,” he explained.
“That’s the goal here, and that’s the goal that the United States has pledged for years now, which is to support the Afghan central government and support the Afghan security forces as they provide for the security situation in their country,” Earnest said.