Despite a vow to withdraw thousands of U.S. troops from Afghanistan by 2017, President Barack Obama this week veered the opposite direction, widening the U.S. military's role in the entrenched, 15-years-long conflict.
The Washington Post reported on Thursday evening that the Obama administration's new measures "authorize U.S. troops, stationed in Afghanistan on a dual training and counterterrorism mission, to begin accompanying conventional local forces on the battlefield in a way that now occurs only with elite Afghan forces."
On Friday, AP noted that the new authorization will also "expand the military's authority to conduct airstrikes against the Taliban."
This week's expansion of the war in Afghanistan follows Obama's decision in September to send Special Forces back into combat in the war-torn nation to fight the re-emergence of the Taliban—less than a year after the president declared the war in Afghanistan over. (The United States also continues to unleash civilian-killing drone strikes on the beleaguered Afghan population.)
An anonymous senior Defense official attempted to defend the decision from critics in an interview with the Post, saying that Obama's authorizations will "maximize the use and effectiveness of our troops supporting the Afghan forces in those select instances in which their engagement can enable strategic effects on the battlefield."
"How widely commanders apply the 'strategic effect' measure will determine the extent to which the authorities thrust the United States back into operations like those it conducted before Obama ended formal combat operations at the close of 2014," the newspaper noted.
Moreover, "it's not clear what effect a small force in Afghanistan, even with new operational authorities, can have in the country’s vast and complex battlefield," the Post wrote. "So far, 2016 has provided no sustained break, with heavy fighting in Helmand and a series of terrorist attacks in Kabul. Even after the United States conducted a strike that officials believe killed former Taliban leader Akhtar Mohammad Mansour in Pakistan, officials expect a punishing fighting season this summer."
Peace-minded progressives decried President Obama's decision and the never-ending war on Twitter:
Obama OKs expanded US military mission to attack Taliban. https://t.co/UTVVlZ3fvg Back to warfare by attrition.
— Micah Zenko (@MicahZenko) June 10, 2016
"Vote for Obama or the world ends." He tripled troops in Afghanistan and drone bombed a half dozen countries. For many the world did end.
— Remi Kanazi (@Remroum) June 10, 2016
— Jonathan Cohn (@JonathanCohn) June 10, 2016
— Mark Blondin (@Mark_Blondin) June 10, 2016
— Olivier Knox (@OKnox) June 10, 2016
Long war gets longer. This didn't come up when he was slow jamming the news https://t.co/Aymzyu2xjK
— Dave Clark (@DaveClark_AFP) June 10, 2016