President Trump is "studying and considering his options" for a new approach to Afghanistan and the broader South Asia region, the White House said Friday after the president huddled with his top national security aides at Camp David. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders issued a brief statement saying Trump had been briefed extensively on a new strategy to "protect America's interests" in the region. She did not specifically mention Afghanistan. "The president is studying and considering his options and will make an announcement to the American people, to our allies and partners, and to the world at the appropriate time," she said. The administration has struggled for months to formulate a new approach to the war, the AP reports.
But stepping up the fight in a way that advances peace prospects may be even more difficult, in part because the Taliban has been gaining ground and shown no interest in peace negotiations. Solutions for Afghanistan, the longest war in American history, eluded the Obama administration and haven't come easily to Trump. Since taking office, he has considered options ranging from walking away from the war to sending in additional troops. Abandoning Afghanistan is seen as unlikely in light of US concerns about countering terrorism. In remarks at the State Department on Thursday, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters he expects a decision "in the very near future." The US has about 8,400 troops in Afghanistan. Their primary roles are to train and advise Afghan forces and to hunt down and kill members of al-Qaeda and other extremist groups.