The US military needs thousands of additional troops to complete its mission in Afghanistan, Army Gen. John Nicholson, commander of US Forces-Afghanistan, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday. “I have adequate support” for US-led counter-terrorism operations, Nicholson said, but there is a “shortfall of a few thousand” troops in the NATO mission to train, advise, and assist Afghan security forces. He said the exact number should be dictated by “objectives and conditions on the ground.” Additional forces could come from “the US and its allies,” and they would be used to form “expeditionary advising packages” that could “push down below the corps level” and direct training for Afghan forces more effectively “at the brigade level.” Nicholson said German forces had used similar packages to positive effects already, and that Italian allies were currently planning to do the same. More troops would also reduce the need of the US military to rely on contractors to perform necessary work to support the mission. US forces currently have twice as many contractors as military members in Afghanistan, Nicholson said, which “has a direct impact on Army readiness and it also costs more money.” The US military currently has 8400 troops in Afghanistan.
The Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness revised the Defense Department’s COVID-19 guidelines. The new rules clarify what’s meant by being “up to date” on vaccinations and when personnel must wear masks in vehicles, among other changes.