Obama expands role of US forces in Afghanistan

KONFRONTASI - US President Barack Obama has ordered the military to take on the Taliban more directly and enable Afghan forces battling the militant group, ratcheting up a 15-year conflict that he had promised to end.

"US forces will more proactively support Afghan conventional forces," a senior administration official told AFP on Friday.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the decision would also allow greater use of American air power.

"This does not mean a blanket order to target the Taliban," the official cautioned.

The US and its allies invaded Afghanistan on October 7, 2001 as part of Washington’s so-called war on terror. The offensive removed the Taliban regime from power, but after about one and a half decade, the foreign troops have still not been able to establish security in the country.

After becoming the president in 2008, Obama vowed to end the Afghan war -- one of the longest conflicts in US history.

In October last year, Obama announced plans to keep 9,800 US troops in Afghanistan through 2016 and 5,500 in 2017, reneging on his promise to end the war there and bring home most American forces from the Asian country before he leaves office.

According to US officials, Washington would also maintain a large counterterrorism capability of terror drones and Special Operations forces to fight militants in Afghanistan.

Last month, the United States killed Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansour in a drone airstrike.

"We anticipate the Taliban will continue an agenda of violence," Obama then said.

Another US military official told AFP, "We are going to do what we can to enable Afghan forces to achieve strategic effects on the battlefield."

"What we are doing now is taking a look at the battle space and making sure we provide the things we can," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"It's not just about a wide blanket to strike the Taliban whenever we want, it's about the core mission of protecting the ANDSF (Afghan National Defense and Security Force),” the official noted.

Afghanistan serves as an essential staging ground for US imperialism's destabilizing the heart of Eurasia and disrupting its integration into Russia's Eurasian Economic Union and China's One Belt, One Road initiative, according to Professor Dennis Etler.

Etler, an American political analyst who has a decades-long interest in international affairs, told Press TV on May 23 that the United States is not interested in establishing peace in Afghanistan.

“They will always try to use it as a staging ground for intervention throughout the region and as a card to play in its geo-political deck. It should be expected that no matter who is in the White House come 2017 US forces will try to remain in Afghanistan in perpetuity,” the scholar said.[ptv]