Official: U.S. Moving to Expand Airstrikes in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON (AP) -

After months of debate, the U.S. is moving toward a decision to expand the military’s authority to conduct airstrikes against the Taliban as the violence in Afghanistan escalates, a senior U.S. defense official said Thursday.

The official said a final decision has not been made. But there is a broad desire across the Obama administration to give the military greater ability to help the Afghans fight and win the war. The U.S. is likely to expand the authority of U.S. commanders to strike the Taliban and do whatever else is necessary with the forces they have to support the Afghan operations.

The 9,800 U.S. troops still in Afghanistan, however, would still not be involved in direct combat.

The official was not authorized to talk publicly about the discussions so spoke on condition of anonymity.

The discussions, which are in their final stages, come as the Afghans struggle with a resurgent Taliban, particularly in the south.