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Report: Obama Broadens US Combat Role in Afghanistan

FILE - U.U.S. Marines prepare to depart at the end of operations for Marines and British combat troops in Helmand, Afghanistan, Oct. 27, 2014.

A leading U.S. newspaper says U.S. President Barack Obama has signed a classified order extending the role of U.S. troops in Afghanistan for another year.

The New York Times said in a report posted late Friday on its website the order "ensures" American troops will have "a direct role in fighting in the war-ravaged country for at least another year."

Obama had said earlier this year the U.S. military would not have a combat role in Afghanistan in 2015. He had said the 9,800 remaining troops in Afghanistan would be limited to training Afghan troops and searching for members of al-Qaida.

The Times report said the president made the decision to broaden the role of the U.S. military in Afghanistan at a White House meeting in "recent weeks" with his top national security advisers.

The newspaper said Obama's order authorizes American airstrikes "under certain circumstances" that support Afghan military operations. The order also allows for ground troops to "occasionally accompany" Afghan troops on operations against the Taliban.

The report said the change was in part related to the rapid advance of jihadist Islamic State militants in Iraq, which has sparked criticism that Obama pulled troops out without a fully prepared Iraqi military in place.

The newspaper said Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's openness to a U.S. military presence in the country also contributed to the shift.

The New York Times was the first to report on the new guidelines. Officials have confirmed details to the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss Obama's decisions by name.