U.S. News

U.S. eyes possible goal increase for the Afghan army

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States and NATO may need to increase their goal for expanding Afghan forces significantly to better support President Obama’s strategy for stabilizing the country, officials said on Friday.

The current goal is to boost the Afghan army to 134,000 soldiers and police to 86,000 by 2010 to ensure the U.S. and NATO security mission has what officials have described as “an Afghan face.”

But officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said top defense and military officers have discussed plans to double the goal for Afghan soldiers to nearly 270,000 to better combat insurgents and avert the possibility that Western forces might come to be viewed by Afghans as foreign occupiers.

“All of that has been discussed,” said one official.

Obama administration officials have examined the possibility of increasing the Afghan army and police to 400,000 personnel. But no decisions have been made.

The Washington Post reported on its Web site on Friday that the new U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Army General Stanley McChrystal, has told U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates that the target for Afghan security forces should be increased well beyond current targets.

U.S. defense and military officials had no immediate comment on the Post article.

Reporting by David Morgan; editing by Todd Eastham