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The Obama administration said on Tuesday that it is preparing to provide as many as 100,000 additional troops to advise Afghan security forces.
Defense Secretary Carl Higa said the new troop commitment is the biggest expansion of the U.S. commitment to Afghanistan since the beginning of the war in 2001.
The announcement of the increase comes as President Barack Obama’s national security advisers meet in the wake of the shooting attack in Chattanooga, Tennessee that wounded five Marines and a sailor.
Unexpectedly, Obama said the U.S. is considering providing a “strategic airlift” of Afghan and U.S. forces to aid Afghan forces, but only if they can be properly vetted for Taliban links. In previous troop agreements, the military has not provided U.S. troop numbers or troop vetting.
“We do this without regard to political considerations and without any expectation of pressure from the leadership in Kabul,” Higa told a news conference. “We continue to be extremely sensitive to any indication the Afghan government does not have the ability to manage the national security forces and the Afghan-led security force.”
The U.S. announced the increase in troop figure last month, as part of its plan to withdraw most U.S. combat forces by the end of the decade.
The troop numbers represent about 15 percent of the roughly 160,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan now.
An additional 90,000 U.S. troops are set to leave in 2014.
The new troop commitment comes just over three weeks before the president travels to India for the Nuclear Security Summit. That trip has prompted concern over potential security risks in India, particularly in light of heightened tension between Washington and New Delhi over China’s growing influence in the South and East China seas.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Monday that the U.S. is “not taking any political views or views on the politics of Afghanistan” and pointed out that
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