U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday paid tribute to “a new generation of American patriots” who, he said, “are fighting to win the battle against terrorism.”
They are “risking their lives to protect our citizens from an enemy that uses the murder of innocents to wage war on humanity itself,” added Trump.
He made the remarks in a Memorial Day speech at the 253-hectare Arlington National Cemetery just after he laid a wreath to honor the more than 300,000 military veterans who are buried there.
Trump is expected at any time to announce a decision on a Pentagon request for an increase in the number of U.S. troops for the continuing war in Afghanistan.
Barack Obama, in the final months of his presidency, did not make a decision on the Defense Department request, preferring to hand it off to the incoming president who would be commander-in-chief by the time any additional forces would head to what has become America’s longest-running military campaign.
The United States invaded Afghanistan following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks carried out by al-Qaida, which had been given protection by the Taliban-led government in Kabul.
While the Taliban were driven from the capital and Afghanistan now has a democratically-elected government, strongly backed by Washington diplomatically and militarily, the hardline Islamic militancy is still fighting and recently has been inflicting heavy casualties on Afghan forces.
The conflict, overall, has killed nearly 2,400 American military personnel plus more than 1,100 coalition soldiers. That death toll pales in comparison to the estimated 170,000 fatalities among local fighters and civilians in Afghanistan and across the border in Pakistan.
There are currently about 8,400 U.S. troops in Afghanistan and commanders have requested an additional 5,000.
Although NATO’s formal combat role in the country ended in 2014, it has a total of 13,000 troops in Afghanistan and is considering an increase in the number.
“Sending a few thousand more U.S. and other NATO troops to Afghanistan will have at most a marginal effect. It may stabilize the front lines of a war where the main battles are in the rear, politics, governance, geo-economics, and diplomacy,” said Barnett Rubin, associate director of the Center on International Cooperation at New York University.
He added that a troop increase could be helpful if there is also an aggressive push for a political settlement, “but instead the military wants to postpone negotiation until we and the government are in a better position.”
Afghan defense officials and military commanders say they do not need more foreign fighters, rather more advisers for training, better equipment and engineering technology.
Rubin, a former top adviser on Afghanistan at both the State Department and United Nations, told VOA that Washington’s “priority is not the stability of Afghanistan, but maintaining a long-term military presence there to strike threats in the region, and the countries of the region will keep the war going as long as necessary to make the U.S. withdraw.”
The Taliban currently control about 40 percent of Afghanistan.