Since the announcement in August that the Trump Administration has committed to Afghanistan, the U.S. military’s numbers there continue to grow. There could soon be 16,000 troops in the country as the Army is gearing up to deploy hundreds of Army trainers there early in 2018.
In his August speech, President Donald Trump said that the US would deploy up to 4,000 more troops to aid in the fight against the Taliban. Those troops have now brought the total of US troops to 15,000. But the numbers tend to fluctuate and the White House has said, that they won’t be announcing troop strength numbers any longer.
As part of a new strategy the president announced along with the troop increase in August, Trump has given Defense Secretary James Mattis, a retired Marine general, broad authority to adjust troop levels in Afghanistan based on military requirements. The president has also permitted the military to change the rules of engagement, overturning a requirement for soldiers to be in contact with enemy forces before opening fire.
Three years ago, in December 2014, former President Obama declared an end to U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan, formally ending a war that had lasted well over a decade. But that was only on paper: The fighting never stopped. Some say the Taliban is stronger than ever—it currently controls 13 percent of the country’s districts and continues to fight for more territory. Roughly 43 percent of Afghanistan’s districts are either under Taliban control or being contested, according to SIGAR, a U.S. watchdog agency.
The Islamic State militant group (ISIS) also has a foothold in the country, and recently staged an attack in Kabul. Thirteen U.S. soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan in 2017 thus far, the most recent death occurring on November 4.
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