In addition to a planned increase in airstrikes, reported yesterday, the White House today confirmed plans to loosen restrictions on ground troops, particularly the special forces in occupied Afghanistan, with an eye toward increasingly their direct combat role.
Press secretary Josh Earnest says that the US troops will be “more proactive” in their operation, and while the US is still officially listing the troops engaged in the occupation as non-combat “advise and assist” troops, they will also engage in “occasional” combat operations alongside Afghan forces.
While plans had at one point been to end the occupation by now, the US has put troop withdrawals “on hold” repeatedly as the Taliban gains more territory. With the Afghan military’s losses mounting, the new US commander, Lt. Gen. John Nicholson was keen to ramp operations back up.
Despite that, Earnest insisted the US is not “restarting” the combat role, irrespective of the combat they’re planning to engage in, and are going to try to keep up with the pretense that the Afghan War, some 15 years in, is at least sort of over.