— The Erimtan Angle —

Last month, Mark Mazzetti and Eric Schmitt wrote that “President Obama decided in recent weeks to authorize a more expansive mission for the military in Afghanistan in 2015 than originally planned, a move that ensures American troops will have a direct role in fighting in the war-ravaged country for at least another year. Mr. Obama’s order allows American forces to carry out missions against the Taliban and other militant groups threatening American troops or the Afghan government, a broader mission than the president described to the public earlier this year, according to several administration, military and congressional officials with knowledge of the decision. The new authorization also allows American jets, bombers and drones to support Afghan troops on combat missions. In an announcement in the White House Rose Garden in May, Mr. Obama said that the American military would have no combat role in Afghanistan next year, and that the missions for the 9,800 troops remaining in the country would be limited to training Afghan forces and to hunting the “remnants of Al Qaeda.” The decision to change that mission was the result of a lengthy and heated debate that laid bare the tension inside the Obama administration between two often-competing imperatives: the promise Mr. Obama made to end the war in Afghanistan, versus the demands of the Pentagon that American troops be able to successfully fulfill their remaining missions in the country. The internal discussion took place against the backdrop of this year’s collapse of Iraqi security forces in the face of the advance of the Islamic State as well as the mistrust between the Pentagon and the White House that still lingers since Mr. Obama’s 2009 decision to “surge” 30,000 American troops to Afghanistan. Some of the president’s civilian advisers say that decision was made only because of excessive Pentagon pressure, and some military officials say it was half-baked and made with an eye to domestic politics. Mr. Obama’s decision, made during a White House meeting in recent weeks with his senior national security advisers, came over the objection of some of his top civilian aides, who argued that American lives should not be put at risk next year in any operations against the Taliban — and that they should have only a narrow counterterrorism mission against Al Qaeda”.[1]

In the Military Times, Andrew Tilghman, writes that “[n]ew rules for the 9,800 U.S. troops staying in Afghanistan next year will let commanders order airstrikes or night raids on Taliban forces who pose a significant threat to the Afghan government, defense officials said. The rules came in an order recently signed by President Obama that clarified the authorities U.S. military commanders will have after the official end of the combat mission in December [2014]. The new rules appear to signal an incremental expansion of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan next year [, which is 2015] Six months ago, Obama announced plans to leave 9,800 U.S. troops in Afghanistan for 2015 and limit their primary missions to two — training and advising the Afghan military and using a small cadre of special operations troops to target al-Qaida ‘remnants’. With the official end of the combat mission requiring a new set of policies and legal authorities, Obama has approved the details of precisely who U.S. military commanders can target. In some cases, it may be Taliban insurgents”.[2] And here are The Young Turks talking about Obama’s decision to stay the course in the Hindu Kush (29 November 2014).

[1] Mark Mazzetti and Eric Schmitt, “In a Shift, Obama Extends U.S. Role in Afghan Combat” The New York Times (21 November 2014). http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/22/us/politics/in-secret-obama-extends-us-role-in-afghan-combat.html?_r=0.

[2] Andrew Tilghman, “New, expanded rules for U.S. combat in Afghanistan in 2015” Military Times (29 November 2014). http://www.militarytimes.com/story/military/pentagon/2014/11/25/new-rules-afghanistan-taliban-targets-2015/70089962/.

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