Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said May 9 that no decision has been made yet about whether U.S. military presence will increase in Afghanistan. “One of the key discussions we are going to have is what are the horizons for the mission in Afghanistan and how do we articulate it.
Dunford told a group of reporters that he and other national security leaders would brief President Trump once they formulate a firm plan.
“I expect [Defense] Secretary [James] Mattis and I, and others, will brief the president soon,” Dunford said.
Citing heavy casualties sustained by Afghan forces in recent months, Army Gen. John M. Nicholson, commander of U.S. and coalition forces there, described the situation in the country as a “stalemate” at present. The fight against the Taliban there is falling short of goal set by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani outlined a year ago, he said.
“We have looked at all the potential ways to accelerate the campaign and meet President Ghani’s objective,” Dunford said.
Any augmentation of troop strength would entail support and cooperation of NATO partners in Operation Resolute Support, the mission to thwart terrorism in the country, Dunford said. An increased military support should occur in tandem with economic reform and political considerations as well, he said.
Noting that at least 20 ISIS, al-Qaida and Taliban-related groups are operating in the region, Dunford said that U.S. presence is essential in order to prevent descent into chaos in Afghanistan.
There are now 9,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, down from 120,000 four years ago. It would be a mistake, Dunford said, to allow the enemy to believe that they need only to hold out until coalition forces leave.
“But if there is an extended commitment by the international community that says we are prepared to do what has to be done as long as it takes to get the Afghans where they need to be … that’s a different story,” Dunford said.