Obama Widens U.S. Afghan Role in Final Months in Office by Robert Burns, Associated Press
Far from ending the two wars he inherited from the Bush administration, Barack Obama is wrestling with an expanded set of conflicts in the final months of his presidency, from Iraq and Afghanistan to Libya and Syria, with no end in sight. In Afghanistan, where aTaliban resurgence has upset Washington's "exit strategy," Obama is giving the U.S. military wider latitude to support Afghan forces, both in the air and on the ground.
The White House says U.S. forces are not taking on a new mission in Afghanistan but rather will "more proactively support" government forces. That amounts to an acknowledgement that the Afghans need more help than the Pentagon had anticipated last year, and it is a signal to allies not to abandon the U.S.-led coalition. Defense Secretary Ash Carter will be discussing this next week in talks at NATO headquarters in Brussels.
The 9,800 U.S. troops in Afghanistan are scheduled to drop to 5,500 by the end of this year, but the pace of that decline has yet to be decided. One factor in deciding future troop levels is the extent to which NATO allies are willing to remain involved in training and advising the Afghans…