Prime US commander says extra troops wanted in Afghanistan

Gen John Nicholson
The highest US commander in Afghanistan mentioned Thursday he wants a “few thousand” extra troops to higher accomplish an integral a part of the mission, and he complained that Russian meddling is complicating the counter-terrorism battle.

Gen John Nicholson did not present the Senate Armed Providers Committee with a precise variety of further forces, however mentioned they might come from the USA or different international locations within the American-led coalition in Afghanistan, the place the battle is now in its 16th 12 months.

He mentioned they’re essential to correctly practice and advise the Afghan army and carry out work now dealt with at higher value by contractors.

There are at the moment about 8,400 US troops conducting counter-terrorism operations towards insurgents and coaching the Afghan military.

Nicholson mentioned he had mentioned troop ranges with Defence Secretary Jim Mattis and Gen Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Employees.

Nicholson mentioned he believes the Trump administration might be open to a degree based mostly on necessities, somewhat than a predetermined determine.

Republicans criticised President Barack Obama for attempting, of their view, to chop the quantity too sharply earlier than he left workplace Jan, 20. However the concept of sending extra Individuals to the battle zone might not go over nicely with a public annoyed by the size and value of the battle.

Senator Elizabeth Warren, citing figures from the particular inspector normal for Afghanistan reconstruction, mentioned the battle is costing US taxpayers $13 million a day.

Nicholson additionally disclosed {that a} US particular forces soldier was “severely wounded” in combating Thursday in Sangin, the Taliban heartland in southern Afghanistan.

He mentioned that due to troop degree limits, the aviation brigade that deployed to Afghanistan was in a position to deliver its helicopters, pilots and workers, however needed to go away its mechanics behind at Fort Riley in Kansas.

Contractors had been employed as an alternative at a price of “tens of thousands and thousands of {dollars},” forcing the soldier mechanics to sit down at dwelling, he mentioned, and affecting the Military unit’s readiness.

Nicholson mentioned there’s a 2-1 ratio of contractors to troops in Afghanistan.

In response to a query from Sen Claire McCaskill, Nicholson mentioned he would not have sufficient troops to supply correct oversight of all these contractors.

Nicholson contended that Russia has been publicly legitimising the Taliban by claiming that the militants are combating terrorists whereas the Afghan authorities just isn’t. He known as {that a} “false narrative” and argued that Moscow’s aim is to undermine the USA and NATO in Afghanistan.

Afghan safety forces have decreased by one-half the variety of IS fighters and by two-thirds the quantity of territory the extremists maintain, in accordance with the commander. He mentioned declined to say within the open listening to whether or not Russia is offering help for the Taliban and in what manner.

The Russians lately invited representatives from the Taliban, China, Pakistan and different international locations within the area to Moscow for conferences about Afghanistan’s future, however didn’t embrace officers from the Kabul authorities, Nicholson mentioned.
The worldwide Purple Cross on Thursday quickly suspended its actions in Afghanistan following an assault that killed six of its staff the day before today in a northern province.

In accordance with Thomas Glass, spokesman for the Worldwide Committee of the Purple Cross, the help group’s “actions are on maintain” till subsequent Tuesday or presumably longer.

The organisation, he advised The Related Press, wants “to reassess how we will conduct our work” safely following Wednesday’s assault close to the northern city of Shibirghan.

Glass described the assault because the “worst incident” for ICRC in 16 years in Afghanistan. The eight-person ICRC workforce was delivering livestock supplies close to Shibirghan, the capital of Jowzjan province, when the gunmen attacked their convoy.

“We’re not planning to go away Afghanistan,” he added.

“We have to have a dialogue with all events within the battle about the safety and security of our workers.”

Nobody has claimed duty for the assault, however the provincial police chief, Rahmatullah Turkistani, mentioned it was possible carried out by the militant Islamic State (IS) group, who’ve a presence within the space.

The Taliban, who’ve been waging a 15-year insurgency towards the Kabul authorities, denied involvement.


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