WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama has quietly approved guidelines in recent weeks to allow the Pentagon to target Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, broadening previous plans that had limited the military to counterterrorism missions against al-Qaida after this year, U.S. officials said late Friday.
The president's decisions also allow the military to conduct air support for Afghan operations when needed. Obama issued the guidelines in recent weeks, as the American combat mission in Afghanistan draws to a close, thousands of troops return home, and the military prepares for narrower counterterrorism and training mission for the next two years.
Obama's moves expand on what had been previously planned for next year. One U.S. official said the military could only go after the Taliban if it posed a threat to American forces or provided direct support to al-Qaida, while the latter could be targeted more indiscriminately.
"To the extent that Taliban members directly threaten the United States and coalition forces in Afghanistan or provide direct support to al-Qaida, however, we will take appropriate measures to keep Americans safe," the official said.
The Taliban's presence in Afghanistan far exceeds that of al-Qaida, adding significance to Obama's authorization. The president's decision came in response to requests from military commanders who wanted troops to be allowed to continue to battle the Taliban, the U.S. officials said.
The New York Times first reported the new guidelines. Officials confirmed details to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss Obama's decisions by name.
The decision to expand the military's authority does not impact the overall number of U.S. troops that will remain in Afghanistan. Earlier this year. Obama ordered the American force presence to be cut to 9,800 by the end of this year, a figure expected to be cut in half by the end of 2015.
The president wants all U.S. troops to be out of Afghanistan a year later, as his presidency draws to a close.
Some of the Obama administration's planning for the post-2014 mission was slowed by a political stalemate in Afghanistan earlier this year. It took months for the winner of the country's presidential election to be certified, delaying the signing of a bilateral security agreement that was necessary in order to keep U.S. forces in the country after December.
In Kabul, officials with the Afghan Defense Ministry declined to comment Saturday, while officials with the presidency could not be reached.
However, Afghan military analyst Jawed Kohistani said the move likely would be welcomed as President Ashraf Ghani's new administration upon taking office immediately signed a deal with the U.S. to allow a residual force of 12,000 foreign troops in the country.
"We have heard from many military officers who are involved in direct fighting with the Taliban and other insurgents that still there is a need for more cooperation, there is need for an ongoing U.S. combat mission and there is need for U.S. air support for the Afghan security forces to help them in their fight against the insurgents," Kohistani said.
Associated Press writer Rahim Faiez in Kabul, Afghanistan, contributed to this report.
Apparently it's not enough to say "your institution isn't serving us and our specific needs and we are suffering" #liabilityofthemind— Patty Fernandez (@PattyFerpi) November 21, 2014
Enter your email address:
The good people of Ferguson, MO deserve peace and respect from the community at large. As we await the decision to either indict Police Officer Darren Wilson or to let him walk away sky free, the people should remain in a peaceful state of mind. Gun sales are up in Ferguson and there appears to be a growing sentiment that potential violence is in the air depending on the outcome of the Michael Brown case. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon activated the National Guard to assist the Ferguson Police Department as a cautionary measure in anticipation of any violence that may occur. With all of the extra police and gun sales soaring high, one would be led to believe that we are bracing for the worst instead of allowing the justice system to make the right decision based on the facts.
Whether Officer Darren Wilson is indicted or not, the protesters should set the example by organizing peaceful demonstrations in the city of Ferguson and across the United States. Some people do not like to talk about the peace process when someone has suffered an injustice by the hands of the law. However, we should always take note that violence only begets more violence. Taking the peaceful approach will assure a victory for Michael Brown's Family in one way or another. There is no sense in tearing up the city and lashing out with threats of violence because nobody wins in the end. Hundreds of people will go to jail and perhaps another innocent person will be shot or killed. This is not the way to challenge the system in the wake of the Michael Brown decision.
The great people of Ferguson have already shown the world how far they will go in regards to making sure that Michael Brown's death was not just another young African American male killed by the police. Residents of Ferguson young, old, African American, Caucasian, celebrities, and everybody interested in justice for Michael Brown, have stepped up to show their support by organizing peaceful protest after protest for over sixty days costing the State of Missouri millions of dollars in police overtime and more. It's also amazing how the entire world is watching the developments in Ferguson, MO. No matter what happens, the world will know that the people are tired of Police Brutality and the use of Excessive Force. Due to the overwhelming demand for justice, the Brown Family now have millions of people praying and speaking up for their son. Hopefully, everything will work out for the better but you cannot bring a person back to life once their life has been taken away due to excessive force or a natural death. With all of the people protesting and rallying around the world, let's not forget that the peace process will always triumph in the end. It's better to work things out with cooler heads than to destroy the very fabric of our society which is the minds of our youth. "There's 'No Excuse' For Police to Use Excessive Force in Ferguson." - President Barack Obama