President Obama has approved the expansion of the U.S. military’s role in Afghanistan next year, according to media reports.
Under a classified order signed in recent weeks by the president, U.S. forces will be able to carry out missions against militant groups, such as the Taliban, that are threatening troops or the Afghan government, according to the New York Times. The Times first reported the authorization on Friday night.
Further, U.S. jets, drones and bombers can support Afghan troops on combat missions, the Times reported.
The move comes months after Obama pledged that troops would remain in the country with two missions: to train Afghan forces and to support counterterrorism operations against al-Qaeda. Back in May, he said it was “time to turn the page” on policies that have focused on the Middle East for the past decade.
This latest order reveals a foreign policy shift for the Obama administration.
The authorization was made at the request of military commanders, who want more troops on the ground to fight the Taliban, The Associated Press reported.
“We will take appropriate measures to keep Americans safe,” a U.S. official told AP.
The authorization does not affect the overall number of American troops that will stay in the country, according to AP.
In May, Obama said he wanted cut troop sizes down to 9,800 by the end of this year and pull them all out of the country by the end of 2016.