Remember when president Obama told the nation that there would be no US troops in Afghanistan after 2014, and everyone got super excited? Those were good times.
In early 2014 the White House announced to the Pentagon that it should be making plans to complete an orderly withdrawal of all US troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year. Just a year later, that strategy shifted to leaving 9,800 troops in Afghanistan (slightly more than zero) through 2016, and ramping down to "just" 5,500 troops in 2017 (again, slightly more than zero). The White House blamed a surge in violence and uneven performance by Afghan forces as the reason for the strategic change.
And now, the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize winner is well on his way to having the US back to square one in Afghanistan. As Reuters reports, president Obama has approved giving the US military greater ability to accompany and enable Afghan forces battling the Taliban insurgency, in a move to assist them more proactively on the battlefield. Under the old rules of engagement in Afghanistan, limits were imposed on US forces' ability to strike at insurgents.
The decision is a departure from current U.S. rules of engagement in Afghanistan, which impose limits on U.S. forces' ability to strike at insurgents.
For example, the U.S. military was previously allowed to take action against the Taliban "in extremis" - moments when their assistance was needed to prevent a significant Afghan military setback.
That definition, however, left the U.S. military postured to assist them in more defensive instances.
However under the new policy, although troops should not be expected to accompany Afghan soldiers on day-to-day missions (of course they will), it gives US commander in Afghanistan General John Nicholson the flexibility to decide when it is appropriate for American troops to accompany Afghan forces into the field.
The extended powers are only meant to be employed "in those select instances in which their engagement can enable strategic effects on the battlefield" one official said. Put another way, the US will now be fighting in each and every mission that takes place in Afghanistan.
Setting aside the tragic human element of the decision by the world's biggest proponent of peace, the US has appropriated $113 billion dollars since 2001 on this endless war that is now in the early stages of ramping back up.
While Reuters leaves the question of whether or not the US will reduce troop levels from 9,800 to 5,500 in 2017 as Obama promised last fall open for debate, we will go way out on a limb and say that there is literally zero possibility of that occurring at this point. What will occur, is more taxpayer dollars will be wasted, and sadly more lives lost, as the US continues to play house in the Middle East.