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US commander asks for more NATO troops in Afghanistan

Army General John Nicholson has said that thousands more soldiers are needed to end the country's conflict. President Donald Trump has not made clear how he plans to proceed with the 16-year war.

The US commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan told Congress on Thursday that the alliance needs more troops in the country if there is to be any hope of finally routing out insurgency. He further accused Russia of secretly supporting the Taliban.

"I believe we're in a stalemate," said General John Nicholson of the protracted conflict. There are currently some 13,000 NATO troops, half of which are Americans, assisting the Afghan government troops and police, who have been in charge of the fight since 2011.

Nicholson said that more soldiers would help him provide the necessary training and assistance needed in the field and in Kabul to help turn the tide of the war. The matter is particularly pressing in light of a recent UN study that declared 2016 the most dangerous year yet for Afghan civilians. Some 11,500 non-combatants, many of them children, were wounded or killed last year.

Trump's Afghanistan strategy unknown

Deciding how to proceed with the mission in Afghanistan will be among the first major tests of defense policy for President Donald Trump. During his campaign, he conceded that it was probably best for US troops to remain in the country for the time being.

 "I think the president will heed the advice of the generals and (Defense) Secretary Mattis. That conversation has yet to happen," said spokesman Sean Spicer when asked about Nicholson's request.

The decision is likely to get contentious in Washington, however. Republican Senator John McCain, who chairs the armed services committee and has frequently locked horns with Trump, has said that the influence of Russia and Iran in the Afghan conflict had to be investigated.

The president, however, has said that Russia is a key ally in fighting "radical Islamic terror."

es/gsw (AFP, AP)

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