U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis announced Monday that more than 3,000 U.S. troops are being sent to Afghanistan.
The majority of the troops, Mattis noted, have either been notified of their upcoming deployment or are already on their way to the region.
“It is exactly over 3,000 somewhat and frankly I haven’t signed the last of the orders right now as we look at specific, small elements that are going,” Mattis told reporters.
The troop increase will put the total number of U.S. forces in the country to more than 14,000.
The Pentagon acknowledged last month that U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan were already higher than previously reported. Although a cap set during the Obama administration allegedly limited the number of troops to 8,400, more than 11,000 were admitted to be in the country.
The new number reflected a policy change by Mattis this year that reversed previous counting methods that excluded troops on short-term missions and partial-unit deployments.
U.S. President Donald Trump, who often called for an end to America’s longest war during the 2016 election season, announced last month that his views had changed after studying the conflict “in great detail and from every conceivable angle.”
“My original instinct was to pull out, and historically I like following my instincts,” Trump said during a speech on his administration’s Afghanistan strategy. “But all my life, I have heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office.”
“In other words, when you are president of the United States. So I studied Afghanistan in great detail and from every conceivable angle. After many meetings over many months, we held our final meeting last Friday at Camp David with my cabinet and generals to complete our strategy.”
While Trump is reported to have entertained the idea of a full troop withdrawal during several national security meetings, the president stated his desire was to produce an outcome “worthy of the tremendous sacrifices that have been made, especially the sacrifices of lives.”
“The men and women who serve our nation in combat deserve a plan for victory,” Trump said. “They deserve the tools they need and the trust they have earned to fight and to win.”
Military experts remain divided on whether the nearly 16-year-old conflict can be won or what a victory would entail.
Trump also asserted the length of the war would no longer be dictated by “arbitrary timetables,” but by “conditions on the ground” instead.