How Afghan leaders deal with the security crisis, amid their own internal disputes, will determine Afghanistan’s future.
Around 200 NATO soldiers, mainly Italians, have been deployed to Afghanistan’s volatile western province of Farah, officials confirmed, after attempts by Taliban fighters in recent months to overrun its capital city.
The announcement on Sunday came two days after the Pentagon said it would deploy some 300 US Marines to the southern province of Helmand, where American forces engaged in heated combat until their mission ended in 2014.
The troops will mainly train and advise local forces, NATO officials say, but the deployments underscore how foreign forces are increasingly being drawn back into Afghanistan’s conflict.
“At the request of the Farah provincial governor, General John Nicholson [top US commander in Afghanistan] has authorised approximately 200 coalition members to support Afghan National Defence and Security Forces,” NATO said in a statement.
“They will conduct their training, advise, assist mission for approximately one week on location.”
Last year, Taliban fighters attempted to overrun several provincial capitals, from Kunduz and Baghlan in the north to Helmand in south and Farah in the west.
Afghan forces backed by coalition air strikes pushed them back on many fronts, though the rebels managed to briefly seize Kunduz city in the north and breached parts of Lashkar Gah city in the south.
NATO officially ended its combat mission in December 2014, but US forces were granted greater powers in June to strike at Taliban fighters as US President Barack Obama vowed a more aggressive campaign.
The US still has some 8,400 troops in Afghanistan.
In early December, General Nicholson said the government in Afghanistan’s capital Kabul directly controls about 64 percent of the country’s population of 30 million, down slightly from 68 percent earlier in 2016.