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Pentagon pushing for more aggressive Afghan military in 2018: report

Pentagon pushing for more aggressive Afghan military in 2018: report
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The commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East wants the Afghan military to follow a new strategy in 2018 he hopes will lead to new gains in the war against the Taliban, The Associated Press reported on Tuesday.

U.S. Central Command head Gen. Joseph Votel said an increase of Americans to train and advise the Afghan military can help escalate the fight.

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The plan involves exerting pressure on the Taliban during the normally quieter Afghan winter, before launching an offensive against the group in the spring.

The U.S. wants the “focus on offensive operations and we’ll look for a major effort to gain the initiative very quickly as we enter into the fighting season,” Votel told the the AP.

Gen. John Nicholson, the head of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said last month that the Pentagon will soon send thousands of additional advisers to aid their Afghan counterparts closer to the front lines.

There are more than 1,000 advisers in the country at any given time, but that “will increase dramatically” in 2018, Nicholson told reporters.

Votel said those advisers will be operating with Afghan units, closer to the front lines, creating greater risk.

The Afghan military must “keep the pressure on all the time and work to gain the upper hand as quickly as we can. So that as we get into this next fighting season we can build on the initiative,” Votel said, according to the AP.

The U.S. has about 14,000 troops in Afghanistan to train, advise and assist Afghan troops in their fight against the Taliban and to also conduct counterterrorism operations against other groups such as al Qaeda and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

That number includes the roughly 3,000 troops sent to the country after President TrumpDonald John TrumpDeath toll in Northern California wildfire rises to 48: authorities Graham backs bill to protect Mueller Denham loses GOP seat in California MORE announced his new Afghanistan strategy last summer.

Votel said the upped U.S. presence will help the Afghans become better fighters.

“By the time they get to the next fight ... they will be able to really present a significant offensive capability,” he said.