U.S. Military Combat Role Quietly Continues in Afghanistan

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A U.S. Army Soldier from the A Company, 1-503rd Battalion, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, conducts a patrol with a platoon of Afghan national army soldiers to check on conditions in the village of Yawez, Wardak province, Afghanistan, Feb. 17, 2010. Partnership between the U.S. Army and the Afghan national army is proving to be a valuable tool in bringing security to the area. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Russell GilchrestReleased)

Did the U.S. military combat role in Afghanistan actually end when President Obama formally declared the United States’ war against the Taliban was over in Afghanistan. Not if you believe some American officials in Kabul. Behind closed doors, they are saying the U.S. military combat role involves airstrikes and sending Special Operations troops directly into harm’s way as the Taliban gains ground against Afghanistan government forces.

The New York times reported, “Rather than ending the American war in Afghanistan, the military is using its wide latitude to instead transform it into a continuing campaign of airstrikes — mostly drone missions — and Special Operations raids that have in practice stretched or broken the parameters publicly described by the White House.

Western and military officials said that American and NATO forces conducted 52 airstrikes in March, months after the official end of the combat mission. Many of these air assaults, which totaled 128 in the first three months of this year, targeted low- to midlevel Taliban commanders in the most remote reaches of Afghanistan.”

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U.S. Military Combat Role or Advisory Role?

While visiting the troops in Hawaii on Christmas Day, President Obama announced that the combat mission in Afghanistan would be ending in the following week. At that point, the American public was told that the U.S. military combat role would switch to an advisory role with U.S. Special Operations troops serving as advisors and trainers of struggling Afghan government forces.

And this is what the White House administration continues to tell American citizens. It is also what many news outlets continue to report. Besides “advising and training,” administration officials also justify the presence of U.S. troops by saying they are there for counterterrorism purposes.

A Different Story Than Washington Tells

American officials in Kabul Afghanistan, who are not sharing their identity, are telling a different story than the one coming out of Washington and the White House. They are saying that the U.S. military combat role is much more than advising, counterterrorism and force protection. These officials are saying that U.S. troops are actually taking an offensive stance – not defensive stance – against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

One unnamed American official told the New York Times, “With the troops on the ground, the command for the American-led coalition called in airstrikes under the authority of force protection. They are putting guys on the ground in places to justify the airstrikes. It’s not force protection when they are going on the offensive.”

What do you think? Do you think the U.S. military combat role actually ended as Washington officials are telling us?

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