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Troop Surge in Afghanistan?

troop surge

By Debbie Gregory.

Officials have said that some 3,000 to 5,000 extra troops, including hundreds of Special Operations forces, could be deployed to Afghanistan. Their mission? To stop the Taliban. But instead of hoping to beat the Taliban on the battlefield, the aim would be to negotiate an end to the conflict.

The Pentagon has previously announced plans to expand U.S. military operations in Afghanistan by at least several thousand additional troops, but that number will depend on how many troops NATO partners are willing to commit.

President Trump is scheduled to meet with those partners at the NATO summit in Brussels on May 25th.

There are currently 8,400 American boots on the ground deployed to Afghanistan. NATO partners contribute 4,900 more.

Special Operations troops are waging a direct campaign against the Islamic State’s local affiliate, known as ISIS Khorasan (ISIS-K) but the bulk of the forces are focused on training and advising Afghan troops.

However, a raid that took place on April 27th killed Sheikh Abdul Hasib, the emir of ISIS-K, as well as other leading ISIS-K members and 35 ISIS-K fighters

“This successful joint operation is another important step in our relentless campaign to defeat ISIS-K in 2017,” said General John Nicholson, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. “This is the second ISIS-K emir we have killed in nine months, along with dozens of their leaders and hundreds of their fighters. For more than two years, ISIS-K has waged a barbaric campaign of death, torture and violence against the Afghan people, especially those in southern Nangarhar.”

Gen. Nicholson has been pushing for increased troop levels since February, but his request took a back seat to a broader administration review of Afghan policy and a push for NATO to contribute more troops.

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NATO Sending More Troops to Eastern Europe

General View of the meeting room

By Debbie Gregory.

Last week, NATO Defense Ministers wrapped up two days of talks in Brussels, which marked progress in creating four NATO battalions in the Baltic States and Poland.

“Over the past two days, we assessed the various challenges confronting NATO,” said Secretary General Stoltenberg. “We took stock of our progress since the Warsaw Summit – and we mapped out the road ahead. We are as united as ever in our determination to protect our citizens.”

In the face of perceived Russian provocation, the United Kingdom has deployed hundreds of troops to Eastern Europe as NATO continues to make its presence known.

In 2017, the UK plans to send Royal Air Force Typhoon jets to Romania for up to four months. This is the largest buildup of troops in the region since the Cold War.

The latest troop deployment comes at a time of fear over the security of Baltic states such as Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, which have significant Russian-speaking minorities like Ukraine and concerns that they could suffer a similar fate to Crimea’s.

The United States and the UK are both set to send troops to Poland next year in a show of strength and support of their NATO ally. NATO has also said that Albania, Italy, Poland and Slovenia will contribute to a Canadian-led battalion in Latvia.

Belgium, Croatia, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Norway will join a German-led battalion in Lithuania, while Denmark and France will contribute to the UK-led battalion in Estonia. Romania and the UK will join the US-led battalion in Poland.

In February, the US Department of Defense announced it was spending $3.4 billion for the European Reassurance Initiative to deter Russian aggression against NATO allies.

The initiative will include putting equipment in place in the Baltic states, Poland and Central Europe.

A limited rotational force of 330 U.S. Marines will be deployed to Norway, beginning in January. They will be stationed at the Vaernes military base, according to a statement from the Norwegian Defense Ministry.

Earlier this year, members of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade trained in Norway alongside troops from other NATO countries in Exercise Cold Response.

Norway shares a 196-kilometer (122-mile) border with Russia.

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Russia a Threat, Once Again? Military Connection

ash putin

By Debbie Gregory.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter is calling Russia a “very, very significant threat,” agreeing with an assessment made by top military officials. Describing Russia’s behavior under President Vladimir Putin as that of an “antagonist,” Carter said a potential conflict with Russia is not something that the U.S. has had to think about since the Cold War.

During confirmation hearings on Capitol Hill, Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, who will take over as the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs this year, and Army Gen. Mark Milley, who recently became the Army’s new chief of staff, both named Russia as the top threat.

Carter said that the Pentagon’s strategy in countering Russia included an approach he called “strong and balanced.”

“The strong part means we are adjusting our capabilities qualitative and in terms of their deployments, to take account of this behavior of Russia,” he said.

While the U.S. must deal with Russia’s new aggression on the world stage, Carter said America will continue to work with Russia on things like counterterrorism and conflicts with Iran and North Korea. This cooperation leaves the door open for a peaceful future relationship with Russia, he said.

“The balanced part is we continue to work with Russia, because you can’t paint all their behavior with one brush. There are places where they are working with us: in counterterrorism in many important respects, in some respects, with respect to North Korea, in some respects with respect to Iran and elsewhere,” he said.

“So where Russia sees its interests as aligned with ours, we can work with them and will continue to do that,” Carter added.

U.S. and Western allies were forced to impose several rounds of sanctions on Moscow last year in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and annexation of the Crimean peninsula.

“We’ll continue to hold open the door so that if either under Vladimir Putin or some successor of his in the future, there’s a leadership that wants to take Russia in the direction that, I believe, is best for Russia,” Carter said.

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