BRUSSELS — The war in Afghanistan — America’s longest conflict — will grind on for at least another four years as NATO allies are prepared to commit $5 billion through 2020 to train, equip and pay Afghan security forces, according to a senior NATO diplomat.

Last week, President Obama granted U.S. troops in Afghanistan expanded authority to attack Taliban insurgents. The new rules allow U.S. forces to advise regular Afghan combat units and to call in airstrikes. There are about 9,800 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and Obama has pledged to reduce their number to 5,500 by year’s end.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the new, more aggressive approach put U.S. forces closer to the fight with the Taliban. The previous rules allowed, for example, for U.S. troops in Afghanistan to protect themselves and to aid Afghan forces in peril.

“We will more proactively support Afghan conventional forces in two critical ways: one, with more American firepower, especially through close air support; and two, by accompanying and advising Afghan conventional forces on the ground and in the air. In practical terms, this means that U.S. forces will have more opportunities to accompany and enable Afghan conventional forces — just like we have already been doing with Afghan special operations forces,” Carter said.

Read more at USA Today

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