Washington- The Pentagon will ask the White House next week to send thousands more troops to Afghanistan to break a deadlocked fight with the Taliban, a senior official has said.
After a steady downsizing of US troop numbers since 2011, US military commanders say they need to strengthen the numbers on the ground to better support Afghan forces and help retake territory lost to the Taliban.
According to US media, the Pentagon will ask for 3,000 to 5,000 more soldiers, mainly to be assigned to advise and train Afghan military and police.
US troops in Afghanistan number about 8,400 today, and there are another 5,000 from NATO allies, also now in an advisory capacity.
“I expect that these proposals will go to the president within the next week,” said Theresa Whelan, Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations, in a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.
The intent is “to move beyond the stalemate and also to recognize that Afghanistan is a very important partner for the United States in a very tricky region.”
Whelan’s announcement came as Pakistani and Afghan officials accused each other of killing civilians Friday after gunfire erupted near a major border crossing where Pakistani census officials were carrying out a count, exacerbating tensions between the neighbors.
At least eight civilians were killed, according to officials — seven on the Pakistani side, and one on the Afghan side — and dozens wounded before the fighting near the Chaman border crossing subsided late Friday afternoon, officials said.
The border is not the only area of dispute between the neighbors: Afghanistan has long accused Pakistan of sponsoring the Afghan Taliban, though Islamabad says it provides the militants with safe haven as a “lever” to bring them to peace talks.
Pakistan has also accused Afghanistan of harboring militants who carry out attacks in its territory.