Obama to extend US combat role in Afghanistan

Published November 23rd, 2014 - 08:30 GMT

President Obama quietly signed a classified executive order authorizing a more expansive role for U.S. troops in Afghanistan in 2015, ensuring American troops will be fighting in the country for at least one more year, The New York Times reported.

The order allows American troops to take a direct role in missions against militant groups that include the Taliban.

It's a broader mission than the president described in a May announcement, when he said the U.S. military would have no combat role in Afghanistan next year and the remaining 9,800 troops would be focusing on training Afghan forces and handling al-Qaida threats.

The new authorization also reportedly calls for U.S. jets, bombers and drones to support Afghan troops on combat missions. The order will allow for U.S. airstrikes to support Afghan military operations in some cases and some ground troops may accompany Afghan troops in actions against the Taliban.

The decision to broaden the role for American troops came during a heated debate in the Obama administration with national security advisors.

A senior administration official told The New York Times that American forces will not conduct regular patrols or offensive missions against the Taliban next year.

"We will no longer target belligerents solely because they are members of the Taliban," the official told The New York Times. "To the extent that Taliban members directly threaten the United States and coalition forces in Afghanistan or provide direct support to al Qaeda, however, we will take appropriate measures to keep Americans safe."

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