Mark Collins – Most Recent US Afghan Commander Pushes Back at POTUS

Further to this post,

Poor POTUS Afghanistan Update, Cont’d (plus Great Games)

the general sees no easy way out, need to step up US direct involvement:

Senior U.S. general wants to start striking the Taliban again

A senior American general has proposed resuming offensive strikes against the Taliban, exposing a rift between the military and senior administration officials over the U.S. role in the war in Afghanistan, according to military officials.

Senior Pentagon officials complained that Gen. John F. Campbell, who commanded U.S. forces in Afghanistan until earlier this month, broke with standard military procedure when he forwarded his proposal in recent weeks directly to the White House without the knowledge of Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter.

Campbell said he followed normal channels in submitting his recommendations, which could draw the United States back into a broader air campaign against the Taliban.

[Central Command nominee may push for revisions to Afghanistan exit]

The dispute comes as Afghan forces struggle to hold back resurgent Taliban forces, which have reclaimed some areas won at great cost during the U.S. troop surge…

Any escalation of the U.S. role underscores the ongoing vulnerability of Afghan forces and what is expected to be a violent 2016 summer fighting season, even as President Obama attempts to meet his campaign promise of ending the war…

The proposals made by Campbell, before he left Kabul on March 2, include authorizing some U.S. air support for Afghan operations against the Taliban, conducting strikes against Taliban leaders and placing American advisers with conventional Afghan forces closer to the front lines…

Currently, U.S. commanders can strike the Taliban only when its fighters pose a direct threat to U.S. forces or when Afghan troops are in grave danger of being overrun. Campbell’s request to broaden authorities to strike the Taliban is one of the few levers at the military’s disposal to increase pressure on militant leaders and drive them to the negotiating table for peace talks…

Pentagon officials said they would wait until Gen. John W. “Mick” Nicholson Jr., who assumed command from Campbell, concludes his initial review, which will address the question of striking the Taliban and the feasibility of sticking with the White House’s plan to cut U.S. force levels in half, from 9,800 to 5,500, later this year…

Campbell’s request received a chilly reception at the White House [SURPRISE!]. Officials said it is being reviewed, but made clear that the emphasis for the U.S. military should be on helping Afghan forces develop the capabilities they are lacking, such as an effective air force, rather than taking on new missions in Afghanistan…

Keep in mind the substantial NATO training mission, often ignored in reporting on what the US is (or is not) doing.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a  Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he  tweets @Mark3Ds

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