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Commander of US Forces in Afghanistan Requests Thousands of Troops

10 February 2017

The top USA commander in Afghanistan said Thursday that he needs a "few thousand" more troops to better accomplish a key part of the mission in the war-torn country and complained that Russian meddling there is complicating the counterterror fight.

"I have adequate resourcing in my counterterrorism mission", Gen. John Nicholson, who leads US and global forces in Afghanistan, told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

He said he has "adequate" resources for counterterrorism, but is facing a shortfall of a few-thousand troops to train Afghan forces.

Prosecutors said Thursday that the suspect joined the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2013 and was trained to use an AK-47 assault rifle and hand grenades. This call for thousands more troops appears to portend even deeper military involvement.

America has been at war in Afghanistan for 15 years.

Nicholson faced questions Thursday from senators about the Trump administration's plans for handling the long-running war in Afghanistan.

A US -led coalition toppled the Taliban from ruling Afghanistan after the Sept.11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and American troops have been there since that time. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, asked the commander of USA forces in that country. In 2012, Obama made a decision to settle for "Afghan good enough", leading to a steady withdrawal of American combat troops.

There are some 8,400 US troops remaining in Afghanistan since most North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces withdrew in 2014. "However, I personally believe that this effort we're undertaking there is protecting the homeland and preventing these terrorists from bringing their fight to our doorstep". Its weak, often shambolic central government can not survive without heavy global financial support.

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Cutting off or limiting the SIV program "would be the wrong message to send to our Afghan partners", he said.

"We're going to be able to discuss this in greater detail", at North Atlantic Treaty Organisation next week, Nicholson said...

Even so, the Taliban's leaders can still fix to their safe havens in the tribal areas of neighboring Pakistan. The president only gave it a passing mention during his speech at U.S. Central Command on Monday, which is responsible for military operations in the Middle East, thanking "everyone serving overseas, including our military personnel in Afghanistan". This narrative that they promote is that the Taliban are fighting Islamic State and the Afghan government is not fighting Islamic State and that therefore there could be spillover of this group into the region. Meanwhile, ISIS also wants tospread roots inside Afghanistan itself. Nicholson said an Afghan-led peace process would be more enduring than one crafted by external actors.

Nicholson did not advocate the return of American combat forces to the country, but he described more robust support for Afghanistan's military as it fights the Taliban across the country.

Nicholson said he had discussed troop levels with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He further accused Russian Federation of secretly supporting the Taliban. Later, he added: "I believe its intent is to undermine the United States and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation".

The Russian effort to destabilize the Kabul government is just one of several issues stemming from the US military involvement in Afghanistan, now in its 16th year, that will have to be faced by the new administration of President Donald Trump, Nicholson said.

"We do have a backlog", Nicholson said.