Afghanistan – Will the US Stay?

By Faye Higbee

Afghanistan has been a hotbed of jihadist activity, and the US is starting to look at leaving and replacing troops with contractors instead of upping troop levels. Take for example, the last two days: an attack on the Iraqi Embassy in Kabul left two staff dead; and an attack on a Shi’ite Mosque in Herat Province left at least 20 dead.

“They [the Afghans] are really scared to death that we are going to pull the plug on this [continued U.S. military presence].” US Official to Military Times

In the last two days:

Iraqi Embassy

A suicide bomber detonated himself at the gate to the Iraqi Embassy in Kabul, which is not inside the Green Zone. As that explosion occurred, three more attackers stormed inside and engaged Afghan police in a fire fight that lasted several hours, along with several more explosions.

Confusion reigned over news of the incident, with some reporting that no one was killed except the 4 attackers, and then later someone figured out that two Embassy staffers had been killed. At least one policeman was wounded, although one witness stated there were two.

ISIS claimed responsibility while the attack was still going on.

Jawadi Mosque, Herat Province, Western Afghanistan

On Tuesday, at least 20 people were killed and around 30 more injured, when two attackers got inside a Shi’ite Mosque, detonated bombs and threw grenades.

The Shi’ite minority in the country has often been the target of ISIS, although they have not yet claimed responsibility for the attack. As ISIS continues to lose territory, they appear to have stepped up their attacks, according to the ExpressUK.

Will the US stay?

The White House is conflicted over increasing US troop levels. Security Chief H.R. McMaster is in favor of strengthening the US presence, as is General John Nicholson, who requested several thousand more troops. But there are other White House staff that are not.

General Mattis said just the other day that he didn’t want to order more troops if he’d just have to pull them back.

Senator McCain emphatically stated that if no forward progress is made, he will offer an amendment to the Defense budget in September to up the troop levels, according to Military.com.

But the whole idea is stuck at the White House, as one idea was to have the troops replaced by private Contractors.

According to the Military Times,

“…The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday that the White House is now instead considering the option of withdrawing U.S. forces completely and potentially supplanting that presence with private contractors…

…The few policy officials with actual experience in Afghanistan are getting increasingly frustrated at the White House,” the official said. “The notion that the president gave Secretary Mattis carte blanche on policy and troop levels in the region is being completely undermined by White House staff that have no relevant, recent experience on the ground or even in the region.”

The White House has reportedly been seriously considering this avenue for about a month. It’s beginning to frustrate everyone involved that no decision has been made. Yet the White House says they are “making progress.”

“The president recognizes that past approaches have not worked and he has tasked his team with developing a new way forward that is realistic, sustainable, cost effective and that protects U.S. vital national security interests. 

The team has made great progress in developing a new approach to this complex problem and preparing options for the president. The timing of any final decision is the prerogative of the president.” White House statement

 

 

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