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WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump is weighing an option to send more troops to Afghanistan to help Kabul deal with a sudden increase in terrorist attacks, the US media reported on Monday.

These troops are part of the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade (SFAB), which is first of the six units of roughly 1,000 soldiers each that are specially designed to “advise and assist” foreign armies to fight insurgencies.

Reports in the US media claimed that recent terrorist attacks in Kabul forced the Trump administration to “significantly shorten” the training period of these forces.

Colonel Scott Jackson, who commands this force, told reporters that SFAB was still undergoing training in the woods of Louisiana but the training period has been cut short by six months to deploy them in Afghanistan. “Whenever you accelerate something, you reduce the quality. “That’s a strike against it right there,” he added.

A Washington-based news magazine, Politico, reported that the new force was the latest in a string of Pentagon attempts to prepare Afghan, Iraqi and other foreign security forces to secure their nations.

“They are also the most concrete acknowledgement that all the costly efforts to professionalise such ragtag armies have failed — and the need is as great as ever,” the report added.

Politico also reported that the 1st SFAB will be deployed in Afghanistan this spring as part of President Trump’s revamped war strategy aimed at defeating the Taliban. He also has given new powers to US troops in Afghanistan to engage the insurgents and to call in air and artillery strikes.

“This is not going to be like previous deployments,” Col. Jackson, told Politico, as the troops assigned to the 1st SFAB are mostly eager, battle-hardened volunteers who have fought in Afghanistan before.

The new brigades are the brainchild of the US Army Chief Gen. Mark Milley, who has been involved in training and advising national armies in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

Last week, the US Air Force deployed A-10 Thunderbolt jets to Afghanistan for the first time in more than three years to provide close-air support for American and Afghan troops.

Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, head of US Air Forces Central Command, told Fox News that decision to use precision airpower in Afghanistan was part of US effort to force the Taliban to “reconcile or face defeat,”

“As US advisers move closer to the front lines in support of our Afghan partners, this additional airpower will give them the decisive advantage necessary to advance with confidence,” he added.

The London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported that in its first year, the Trump administration has tripled air strikes — including drones — in Yemen and Somalia. In Afghanistan, the number of weapons dropped is now approaching levels last seen during the 2009-2012 surge. And there are signs that the drone war may be returning to Pakistan, where attacks were also up, compared with 2016.

Published in Dawn, January 30th, 2018