A coming deployment of up to 4,000 more US forces to Afghanistan, expected as part of a new Trump administration approach to America's longest war, reflects the Pentagon's view that beefing up its training- advising role and its counterterrorism effort can help turn around recent Taliban gains and snuff out a growing Islamic State threat.
But adding troops is a US tactic that has failed in the past and much will depend on the president's broader strategy for stabilising Afghanistan.
Defence Secretary Jim Mattis's chief spokeswoman, Dana W White, said yesterday that Mattis had made no decision on a troop increase.
She was responding to an Associated Press report Thursday, citing an administration official, that Mattis has settled on a plan to send almost 4,000 more troops and that it could be announced as early as next week. Another option is to hold off on the troop numbers until the new strategy is ready, which Mattis has said would be in July.
White said in a written statement that "any decision about troop numbers will be made only after consultations" with other US government agencies, NATO allies and Afghanistan. Such consultations have been ongoing for weeks. Mattis is due to attend a NATO defense ministers meeting later this month.
The retired Marine general has said repeatedly that adding US troops and other resources to Afghanistan would be just one part of a larger strategy, developed in conjunction with the State Department and other national security agencies.
The plan envisions addressing the roles played by Pakistan, India, China and Iran and perhaps Russia. Pakistan is a particularly difficult problem because it has provided sanctuary for elements of the Taliban.
Among the Taliban's factions, the strongest is the so- called Haqqani network with its deep ties to Pakistan and particularly its intelligence agency.
The relationship dates back to the 1980s Afghan war against the Soviet Union, which had sent in more than 100,000 soldiers to support the pro-communist Afghan government. Pakistan has been a troublesome ally for multiple US presidents, permitting large-scale U.S. Air attacks on extremist targets but sometimes halfheartedly addressing threats itself.
The latest is posed by Islamic State extremists, evidenced in a rash of deadly attacks in the capital city of Kabul, which have only fueled calls for a stronger US presence.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)