The general in charge of U.S. Central Command said Thursday that he anticipates more U.S. forces being sent to Afghanistan to break what he and others say is a stalemate in the more-than-15-year-old war there.
“We are developing a strategy, and we are in discussions with the secretary and the department right now,” Gen. Joseph Votel told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “I do believe it will involve additional forces to ensure that we can make the advise-and-assist mission more effective.”
Votel’s comments come about a month after the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Nicholson, told the committee he has a “shortfall of a few thousand” troops in the mission.
Right now, there are about 8,400 U.S. troops in Afghanistan on a dual mission of training, advising and assisting Afghan forces in their fight against the Taliban and conducting counterterrorism missions against groups such as al Qaeda.
The train, advise and assist mission is a NATO mission, and Nicholson had said the few thousand troops he is short could come from either the United States or NATO countries. But it’s not expected that NATO countries would contribute more troops without a U.S. commitment to do the same.
Votel said additional troops could be used to improve the capabilities of the Afghan air force and special operations forces.
Votel added that he agrees with Nicholson’s estimate of a being short a few thousand troops but wouldn’t get into more specific numbers pending a decision by Defense Secretary James Mattis.
“That’s certainly a discussion we’re having with the secretary right now, and I won’t be pre-stage a decision,” Vote said. “But I certainly agree with what Gen. Nicholson’s approach is.”