President Barack Obama’s decision to allow more aggressive U.S. military action in support of Afghan combat operations against the Taliban could have a game-changing effect on the long war, Gen. John Nicholson, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said Saturday.
After prohibiting U.S. forces from targeting the Taliban except in limited circumstances beginning in 2015, Obama shifted course last month and said Nicholson could use U.S. airpower and other military assets against the Taliban if it supported offensive Afghan action as part of a strategic campaign plan.
What that amounts to, Nicholson said in an Associated Press interview at his military headquarters in Kabul, is encouragement for the Afghans to stay on the offense.
“Armies win on the offense,” he said, alluding to longstanding U.S. concerns that Afghan commanders have been too passive, defensive and lacking in aggressive strategies for pursing the Taliban once the militants begin to lose ground.
“The ability to help the Afghan security forces when they are on the offense is really where we want to be, because when they have the initiative, when they are on the offense, when they are taking the fight to the enemy, that’s how they’re going to be successful,” Nicholson said.
Nicholson said that the attempted coup in Turkey had no impact on the U.S.-led campaign to support Afghanistan in its war against the Taliban.
He said the international coalition he leads includes more than 500 Turkish soldiers and he is pleased with what he called the professionalism of senior Turkish military officers who supported the government against the coup leaders. He said he believes the Turkish government is “going to be fine.”
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