U.S. national security adviser H.R. McMaster was in Kabul on Sunday for what is the first visit by a Trump administration official to Afghanistan, officials here said, coming just days after U.S. forces dropped a 22,000-pound bomb during combat and revived debate over the war.
President Donald Trump has so far said little about the conflict, where more than 8,000 U.S. troops are helping battle the Taliban, raising concerns among Afghan officials about the administration’s commitment to the fight.
The commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr., has said he will need thousands of additional troops to break the stalemate. And on Friday, U.S. forces used the largest conventional bomb in the military’s arsenal – the GBU-49 – to hit a stronghold of Islamic State militants in the east.
The deployment of such massive weaponry stunned many in Afghanistan and around the world, jolting the public’s attention back to what has been a slow-grinding war. The U.S. military has still not released its assessment of the bomb’s impact, but officials here say more than 90 militants were killed.
The use of the GBU-49, coupled with McMaster’s trip, is being viewed as a sign the administration is headed for a policy change in Afghanistan, potentially reversing former President Barack Obama’s pledge to remove all troops.
Senior U.S. officials said last week that a strategy review is underway.
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · Erin Cunningham