In the middle of his eight years as the Imam of America, Barack Obama told the military to stop targeting members of the Taliban because he was negotiating with them just like he tried to negotiate the Muslim Brotherhood back into power in Egypt after the entire country rebelled under their rule and tossed them out. It’s safe to say the vast majority of Afghans don’t want the Taliban returned to power. During that four years, the Taliban had it’s biggest gains since they were tossed out.
President Donald Trump is fixing that. His plan for Afghanistan is to wipe out as many Taliban leaders as possible and drive them underground. He has no plans for the Taliban to have a seat in power within that country.
The new strategy may have been previewed in a Feb. 26 strike on a major Taliban figure in the northern part of the country. The Obama administration shied away from targeting Taliban leaders in the latter half of President Obama’s second term, preferring instead to limit strikes to counter-terrorism targets. The administration instead pushed the U.S.-backed Afghan government to pursue political reconciliation with the insurgent group.
“The U.S. military wanted to telegraph a strong message that Taliban leaders are not safe in Afghanistan, no matter where they may be, and that they will be targeted so long as they continue to resist reconciliation efforts,” Afghan expert at the Wilson Center Michael Kugelman told Military Times.
Both the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan and the head of U.S. Central Command told Congress in recent months more U.S. troops would be needed to finish the mission, in an implicit swipe at past U.S. policy. “I do believe it will involve additional forces to make the advise-and-assist mission more effective,” U.S. Army Gen. Joseph Votel told Congress Thursday.
Army Gen. John Nicholson also said the U.S. would need “a few thousand more” troops to accomplish the mission. An increase in the number of U.S. troops coupled with more aggressive rules of engagement are similar to other changes the Trump administration has made in its counter-terrorism policies. Trump has increased the number of U.S. troops in the fight against ISIS, loosened rules of engagement for U.S. troops in Iraq, and allowed more airstrikes on al-Qaida targets in Yemen.