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US President Likely to Increase Troops in Afghanistan | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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US soldiers from 5-20 infantry Regiment attached to 82nd Airborne walk while on patrol in Zharay district in Kandahar province, southern Afghanistan April 24, 2012. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

President Donald Trump is likely to open the door to a modest increase in US troop numbers in Afghanistan when he lays out his strategy on Monday for America’s longest military conflict, US officials said.

Trump will give a prime-time address to the nation at 9 pm (0100 GMT, Tuesday) to detail his view of the US role in Afghanistan, an issue that vexed his two predecessors.

With Taliban insurgent forces no nearer to defeat, the most likely outcome is that Trump will agree to sending more US forces as recommended by his senior advisers, a senior administration official said. Current US troop numbers are about 8,400.

Trump has long been skeptical of how the United States is fighting the war in Afghanistan, which was launched by President George W. Bush in October 2001 after the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

Trump announced a strategic review soon after taking office in January and has privately questioned whether sending more troops is wise, US officials said.

“We’re not winning,” he told advisers in a July meeting, questioning whether US Army General John Nicholson, who leads US and international forces in Afghanistan, should be fired, an official said.

But Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has argued that a US military presence is needed to protect against a continuing threat from Islamist militants.

Earlier this year, Trump gave Mattis the authority to set troop levels in Afghanistan.

Trump may or may not give an actual number on Monday for the expected troop increase, said an administration official. Two participants in the months-long discussion about an Afghan strategy said the president is likely to reiterate his authorization for Mattis to decide the troop level, thus giving the green light for the military to send more forces to Afghanistan.