WASHINGTON/KABUL: President Barack Obama’s administration has not yet made a decision on whether to ramp up troop levels to counter a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan, the Pentagon said Tuesday.
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter wants to give Lieutenant General John Nicholson, who leads international forces in Afghanistan, time to evaluate the situation on the ground and make proposals first.
“Let’s give General Nicholson a chance to get on the ground, find out… whether or not there needs to be an adjustment,” Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said.
Nicholson vowed to make a proposal within 90 days of taking up the post on March 2.
The number of United States (US) troops is due to drop to 5,500 starting in January 2017 ─ down from 9,800 currently. But losses by the Afghan military against Taliban fighters last year, including when the insurgents took and briefly held the northern city of Kunduz, has concerned US military officials.
The American and Nato combat mission in Afghanistan officially ended in December 2014.
But since then the Taliban have managed to make significant gains against the 350,000 Afghan soldiers and police, with the 13,000 foreign troops now officially limited to training and advising them.
Nato chief predicts another tough year ahead for Afghanistan
Jens Stoltenberg, the Nato secretary general, says anti-government groups will continue to fight Kabul in what’s likely to be another tough year ahead for the Afghan government.
Stoltenberg spoke to The Associated Press during a two-day visit to Kabul, his second since taking the top Nato role in 2014. He predicts the Taliban, Al Qaeda and the militant Islamic State group will keep up their attacks across Afghanistan, focusing on the most contested areas in the country.
Nato has around 3,000 troops in Afghanistan, making up the Resolute Support non-combat mission with about 9,800 US soldiers.