President Obama initially ran for office on ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama’s successor, though, will inherit a sizeable American military presence in Afghanistan, after the president announced a policy shift based on the Taliban’s recent resurgence.
For most of the next year, 9,800 troops will be stationed at bases in Jalalabad in the east, Kandahar in the south, and at the Bagram Air Field. That figure will decrease to 5,500 troops in 2017. Obama’s previous plan was to leave 1,000 troops but after consulting U.S. military commanders, America’s NATO allies, and the Afghan government, the change was made.
The new plan will cost an estimated $14.6 billion as opposed to the prior plan’s $10 billion, the Wall Street Journal reported. The Afghan military currently takes on the brunt of the fighting. The U.S. meanwhile provides air support, intelligence, and logistics.
The Taliban has experienced a revival in recent weeks.
“All three bases are crucial for counterterrorism operations and for flying drones that are used by the military and the C.I.A., which had also argued for keeping troops in Afghanistan to help protect its own assets,” the New York Times reported.
Drone operations based out of Afghanistan mostly target the Taliban in tribal regions on the Pakistani side of the border. “Those strikes have been down this year after a relatively high number occurred in the last six months of 2014 — a period which followed a six month halt in strikes at the request of the Pakistani government as it pursued peace talks with the Taliban,” Ken Gude, a National Security senior fellow at the Center for American Progress told ThinkProgress.
Asked if the drone strikes would be increased considering the latest Taliban resurgence, Gude said, “That’s not knowable as an increase in drone strikes is not necessarily correlated with growing Taliban activity because the frequency of strikes is more associated with intelligence related to specific targets.”
The Taliban has experienced a revival in recent weeks. Two cities and 13 of 34 Afghan provinces experienced fighting in the last week. The Taliban’s presence is at its widest since 2001, according to the UN. Last month, the group seized the northern city Kunduz and held it for over two weeks. It was the most significant notch on the Taliban’s victory belt to date.
If a person killed in a drone strike is unidentified then they are counted as an enemy combatant
It wouldn’t have helped forces fighting the Taliban that the U.S. bombed a hospital in Kunduz earlier this month. Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) soon after demanded a war crimes probe into the attack that killed at least 22 people. AP broke the news today that the US had been monitoring the hospital because they believed a Pakistani operative was coordinating Taliban activity there.
The Intercept released a collection of reports today called the Drone Papers that are based on documents provided by and interviews with an unnamed whistle-blower. The reports revealed controversial realities about the drone program during the last two presidential administrations. Among the multitude of revelations are documents that show unreliable intelligence is utilized to plan strikes and that strikes often kill many more than the intended target. The people killed are then labelled as enemy combatants until proven otherwise. That means that if a person killed in a drone strike is unidentified then they are counted as an enemy combatant.
The source told the Intercept, “[The architects of the drone campaign] never considered: Is what we’re doing going to ensure the safety of our moral integrity? Of not just our moral integrity, but the lives and humanity of the people that are going to have to live with this the most?”