Obama Allows Bigger Combat Role in Afghanistan
Troops will be allowed to go after Taliban
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 22, 2014 9:30 AM CST
A 2009 file photo of U.S. Marines in the Nawa district, Helmand province, southern Afghanistan.   (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File)

(Newser) – The US still plans to wind down its mission in Afghanistan by the end of 2016, but the troops who remain in the country until then are going to be doing more fighting than previously planned, reports the New York Times. President Obama has quietly approved a broader mission with two main points: Troops will be allowed to go after the Taliban, and the US will provide more air support to Afghan troops.

The shift regarding the Taliban seems biggest: Previously, Obama said that remaining troops would be allowed to go after only the "remnants of al-Qaeda." The AP (which confirms the gist of the Times story) notes that the Taliban presence in Afghanistan "far exceeds" that of al-Qaeda, making battles more likely. Despite the changes, which come at the request of the military, the numbers don't change: The US plans to have 9,800 troops in Afghanistan at the end of this year, half that number by the end of 2015, and none by the end of 2016.