WASHINGTON (TheBlaze/AP) — President Barack Obama has quietly approved guidelines in recent weeks to allow the Pentagon to target Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, broadening previous plans that had limited the military to counterterrorism missions against Al Qaeda after this year, U.S. officials said.
The president's decisions also allow the U.S. military to conduct air support for Afghan operations when needed.
Afghan security forces inspect the site of a suicide attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014. Four Taliban militants targeting a compound housing foreign workers in the Afghan capital were killed Wednesday night in a failed assault there, police said, the latest violence targeting foreigners in the country. (Image source: AP/Rahmat Gul)
The officials said that Obama issued the guidelines in recent weeks, as the American combat mission in Afghanistan draws to a close and the military prepares for narrower counterterrorism and training missions.
Obama's moves expand on what had been previously planned for next year.
The officials were not authorized to discuss the president's action by name and insisted on anonymity. The New York Times first reported the new guidelines.
“There was a school of thought that wanted the mission to be very limited, focused solely on Al Qaeda,” one American official told the Times, though adding that “the military pretty much got what it wanted.”
More from the Times:
The decision to change that mission was the result of a lengthy and heated debate that laid bare the tension inside the Obama administration between two often-competing imperatives: the promise Mr. Obama made to end the war in Afghanistan, versus the demands of the Pentagon that American troops be able to successfully fulfill their remaining missions in the country.