Afghanistan: troop surge or drone war?


President Trump was widely expected to announce a troop surge for Afghanistan n his Aug. 21 address from the Fort Myer military base in Arlington, Va.  Gen. John Nicholson, the top US military commander in Afghanistan, had been requesting another 4,000 troops, on top of the current 8,500. Instead, Trump's comments were heavy on get-tough rhetoric and light on actual specifics. "Our troops will fight to win," he said. "From now on, victory will have a clear definition: attacking our enemies, obliterating ISIS, crushing al-Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking over the country, and stopping mass terror attacks against Americans before they emerge." In an admission that a surge might be in the works, despite his campaign-trial isolationism, he added: "My original instinct was to pull out, and historically I like following my instincts. But all my life, I've heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office." (BBC News, WP, Aug. 21)

The White House may be weighing the effectiveness of unmanned drones in containing the insurgency. As Trump spoke at Fort Myer, a US drone struck presumed hideouts of ISIS militants in Afghanistan's eastern Nangarhar province, leaving at least four dead. The provincial police commander said the strike was carried out in the Marghi area of Achin district. There was apparently no official US acknowledgement of the strike. However, the Pentagon last week confirmed that a US soldier was killed and some Afghan and US troops wounded in anti-ISIS operations in eastern Afghanistan. (Khaama Press, Aug. 21)