General Joseph Votel of the US Central Command, who leads forces in the Middle East, said Tuesday that preparations for a full battle against the Taliban in the spring season should begin sooner in the the Afghan army.
“... we'll look for a major effort to gain the initiative very quickly as we enter into the fighting season,” said Votel, adding that Afghan forces must "keep the pressure on all the time and work to gain the upper hand as quickly as we can, so that as we get into this next fighting season we can build on the initiative."
The general said new deployments of American trainers would help with the operation. That carries greater risks for American service members, but Votel said US commanders will make sure US forces have adequate protection.
Under President Donald Trump, Washington has been desperate to prevent a deterioration of security in Afghanistan, some 17 years after the US led an invasion of the country. More US troops are being deployed in areas where the Taliban have gained grounds over the past years. Fears over security have also exacerbated as the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group, which is on its last legs in Iraq and Syria, has carved out its own rule in some Afghan territories.
Votel expressed hope that the Afghan army could reach a better level of preparedness for the next spring fight as a result of Washington's training and funding.
"By the time they get to the next fight, they will be able to really present a significant offensive capability," said the US commander, adding that the Afghan army must prepare for greater fighting once the weather improves.
Reports suggest Trump has effectively doubled the number of US troops in Afghanistan to 16,000 and there are plans for the deployment of a special training unit early this year. That, however, has hardly prevented the advance of the Taliban as the group now controls almost half of the country.