1. Pentagon intelligence chief Lt Gen Vincent Stewart warns of Afghan gains being lost

Pentagon intelligence chief Lt Gen Vincent Stewart warns of Afghan gains being lost

The US must 'do something very different' in Afghanistan, such as placing American military advisers closer to the front lines of battle, or risk squandering all that has been invested there in recent years, the head of the Pentagon's military intelligence agency said.

By: | Washington | Published: May 12, 2017 2:26 AM
The Pentagon says it currently has about 8,400 troops in Afghanistan.

The US must “do something very different” in Afghanistan, such as placing American military advisers closer to the front lines of battle, or risk squandering all that has been invested there in recent years, the head of the Pentagon’s military intelligence agency said today.

The grim assessment by Marine Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, comes as the Trump administration considers Pentagon recommendations to add more US and NATO troops and to deepen support for Afghan forces. The timing of a White House decision is unclear but is not expected this week.

In testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Stewart said he visited Afghanistan about six weeks ago to see for himself what others have called a stalemate with the Taliban, the insurgent group that was removed from power in 2001 by invading US forces.

“Left unchecked, that stalemate will deteriorate in the favor of the belligerents,” Stewart said, referring to the Taliban. “So, we have to do something very different than what we have been doing in the past.” He mentioned increasing the number of US and NATO advisers and possibly allowing them to advise Afghan forces who are more directly involved in the fighting. Currently the advisers work with upper-echelon Afghan units far removed from the front lines.

If such changes are not made, Stewart said, “the situation will continue to deteriorate and we’ll lose all the gains we’ve invested in over the last several years.”

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The Pentagon says it currently has about 8,400 troops in Afghanistan, about one-quarter of whom are special operations forces targeting extremist groups such as an Islamic State affiliate. Gen. John Nicholson, the top US commander in Kabul, has said he needs about 3,000 more US and NATO troops to fill a gap in training and advising roles.

More than 2,200 US troops have died in Afghanistan since the US invasion in October 2001.

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