The next surge of American troops in Afghanistan could arrive in weeks or even days, the top U.S. commander for the Middle East said Tuesday, as military officials revealed the Trump administration will send up to 3,900 more fighters into America’s longest war.
The new plans added the first solid details to President Trump’s firm but vague declaration on Monday that the U.S. will continue its 16-year war on terror until it achieves victory.
Gen. Joseph Votel, who leads the armed forces in the Middle East, said the next deployments for Afghanistan will arrive “pretty quickly.”
He said the top priority was getting “some capabilities in to have an impact on the current fighting season.”
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Senior officials, speaking anonymously to The Associated Press, said Trump plans to send as many as 3,900 more troops into Afghanistan to overcome America’s stalemate against terrorist groups.
The White House has still not confirmed any numbers. Vice President Pence said Tuesday that Trump will make a decision about troops “in the days ahead,” and in a series of morning TV interviews, Pence cited a previous Pentagon plan calling for 3,900 more troops.
There are about 8,400 American troops now serving in Afghanistan — a drastic reduction from a force that once put more than 100,000 fighters in the country.
In his first national address, Trump asserted his commitment to the indefinite battle in Afghanistan, acknowledging he had a change of heart after he spent years calling for a withdrawal from the war.
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But Trump’s half-hour speech at Fort Myer yielded barely any concrete details about his plans. The commander-in-chief said nothing about troop levels or a timeline for the fight, and he did not detail what he would consider a victory.
He even said he would keep major battle advancements secret, assuring he would “not say when we are going to attack.”
But Trump said the United States would not focus on nation-building in the war-ravaged country. He said his lone priority was “killing terrorists.”
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson backed up that plan Tuesday, telling reporters the U.S. would not tell the Afghan government how to rebuild its country.
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“How they organize themselves is up to them,” Tillerson said.
But Tillerson admitted the U.S. might not prevail over the Taliban, and the best American victory might be simply avoiding defeat.
“You will not win a battlefield victory,” Tillerson said as a statement to the Taliban.
“We may not win one, but neither will you.”
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He also warned that the U.S. was ready to diplomatically punishPakistan, which neighbors Afghanistan, if it did not help crack down on extremist groups.
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