The commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan said that the 15-year-old conflict needs “a few thousand” more troops to break “a stalemate.”
“I believe we are in a stalemate,” General John Nicholson, who took command in Afghanistan in March, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday. Nicholson has stated his need for additional troops numerous times over the past few months.
When Senator John McCain, R-Arizona, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, asked how many troops he would need to break the stalemate, Nicholson said the mission would require “a few thousand” more to train, advise and assist the local military.
Nicholson added that he had “adequate” forces to address the counterterror mission, but he wanted to expand their role to provide additional counsel to Afghan forces at the corps level — typically 1,500 to 3,200 soldiers. NATO troops currently only provide advice at the corps level, which is tens of thousands of soldiers.
As a NATO mission, this request would not necessarily fall only to the U.S. military. Any of the NATO allies serving there could provide support to increase troop levels.
“The president will heed the advice of the generals and Secretary Mattis,” Sean Spicer said at Thursday’s press briefing when asked whether the president would commit additional boots on the ground in Afghanistan.
While he was on the campaign trail, Trump maintained a belief that military strategy should never be shared — including committing more troops.
“Even if you believe it — I can understand that — no boots on the ground, you don’t say it,” Trump said at the Values Voter Summit in September. “Let them think they’ll go through hell.”
Earlier in the campaign, however, he seemed to indicate he would commit troops if he was told to do so by those advising him.
“If military advisers recommend it, we should commit a limited—but sufficient—number of troops to fight on the ground,” Trump said of the conflict in Afghanistan in November 2015.
Trump and Afghan President Mohammad Asharaf Ghani talked on the telephone on Thursday. According to the Afghanistan presidential office, Trump and Ghani discussed future military cooperation and planned to meet soon to discuss combating terrorism and building an equal partnership.