America's top military officer arrives in Afghanistan as US weighs strategy shift
Posted June 26
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, US Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, arrived in Afghanistan Monday, a visit that comes as the Trump administration is deciding on a strategy to break what it sees as a stalemate in the 16-year-old war in the country.
Dunford was scheduled to meet with coalition leaders and forces as well as Afghan officials, according to his spokesman US Navy Capt. Greg Hicks.
His trip also comes as the US is deciding whether to deploy thousands more troops to help bolster local forces as they battle the Taliban and ISIS' local branch.
While Secretary of Defense James Mattis told Congress earlier this month that a new strategy for Afghanistan and the wider region, to include Pakistan, should be formulated by "mid-July," President Donald Trump has already given Mattis the authority to make decisions about how many US troops are deployed to Afghanistan without first having to get formal agreement from the White House.
The Pentagon and White House have been reviewing an option to send 3,000 to 5,000 additional US troops to help train and advise Afghan forces.
Mattis has said that these additional American military advisers will allow coalition forces to more effectively support Afghan troops on the battlefield while also helping to provide close air support that he said would give government troops a major advantage over the insurgents.
Defense officials have said that the number of advisers currently in Afghanistan is insufficient to support Afghan units on the front lines, and that coalition troops are largely relegated to advising at divisional headquarters.
It is possible that a decision on additional US forces could be made prior to an overall change in strategy in order to bolster the Afghan military as it faces an uptick in battles typically associated with the summer "fighting season" in Afghanistan.
But other officials have said that a decision on troops will be tied to the Pentagon's ongoing broader military strategic review which is focused on both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
There are currently about 8,400 US troops devoted to Operation Resolute Support in Afghanistan, which encompasses both US counter terrorism forces to fight ISIS and the Taliban as well as a separate effort to train, advise and assist Afghan forces.