WASHINGTON (AFP) – Barack Obama has extended the combat role for US troops in Afghanistan for another year, in a classified order he signed in recent weeks, the New York Times reported Friday.
Previously, the president had said US-led NATO combat operations would finish at the end of this year.
The NATO follow up mission, to take over on January 1 with 9,800 US troops and about 3,000 soldiers from Germany, Italy and other member nations, was to focus on supporting Afghan forces as they take on the Taleban, in parallel with US counter-terrorism operations.
But in a strategic shift, the New York Times said, Obama signed an order authorising US troops through 2015 to carry out missions against militant groups, including the Taleban, that threaten them or the Afghan government.
The new order also allows for air support – from US jets, bombers and drones – for Afghan combat missions.
The newspaper said civilian advisors argued against the broader mission for 2015, objecting to putting American lives in danger in the fight against the Taleban and recommending a narrower, counter-terrorism focus against Al-Qaeda.
“There was a school of thought that wanted the mission to be very limited, focused solely on al-Qaeda,” one American official told the paper.
But, the official said, “The military pretty much got what it wanted.”