White House Expands US Authority to Target Taliban

US troops now have broader authority to accompany Afghan troops in fights battling the resilient Taliban, and US aircraft have more flexibility to hit Taliban targets on the ground, Reuters reported. President Barack Obama approved the increased authority to try to ebb gains from the Taliban, though it “is not a blanket order to target the Taliban,” a senior US government official told the news agency. The new policy lets the top US commander in the country, Army Gen. John Nicholson, decide when to have American troops accompany conventional Afghan forces in the field. Currently, US forces only accompany Afghan Special Forces. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Friday the move allows the US to be “proactive” and anticipate situations when the Afghan forces might need help, instead of using airpower to react to Taliban actions. The decision to allow strikes against the Taliban follows the December 2015 decision by Obama to expand the ability of commanders to target ISIS, which coincided with an increase in US airstrikes. The US has enough aircraft in position to carry out increases in strikes and a changed operational tempo, Air Forces Central Command boss Lt. Gen. Charles Brown said in February. (See also: AFCENT’s Rapid Evolution.)