former Guantanamo bay detainees return to battle Afghanistan dnt sciutto lead_00000809.jpg
former Guantanamo bay detainees return to battle Afghanistan dnt sciutto lead_00000809.jpg
Now playing
02:39
Official: Freed Guantanamo detainees killed Americans
Alleged Taliban fighters and other militants stand handcuffed while being presented to the media at a police headquarters in Jalalabad on March 6, 2018. 
Afghan police said over 17 alleged Taliban militants including two Pakistani nationals were arrested during a five-week operation in Nangarhar province. / AFP PHOTO / NOORULLAH SHIRZADA        (Photo credit should read NOORULLAH SHIRZADA/AFP/Getty Images)
NOORULLAH SHIRZADA/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Alleged Taliban fighters and other militants stand handcuffed while being presented to the media at a police headquarters in Jalalabad on March 6, 2018. Afghan police said over 17 alleged Taliban militants including two Pakistani nationals were arrested during a five-week operation in Nangarhar province. / AFP PHOTO / NOORULLAH SHIRZADA (Photo credit should read NOORULLAH SHIRZADA/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:21
The Taliban: How it began, and what it wants
CNN
Now playing
00:50
Pence: Proud of US troops in Afghanistan
Now playing
00:50
Trump on Afghanistan plan: 'Attack we will'
US President Donald Trump speaks during his address to the nation from Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in Arlington, Virginia, on August 21, 2017.
Trump said a rapid Afghan exit would leave 'vacuum' for terrorists. / AFP PHOTO / Nicholas Kamm        (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images
US President Donald Trump speaks during his address to the nation from Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in Arlington, Virginia, on August 21, 2017. Trump said a rapid Afghan exit would leave 'vacuum' for terrorists. / AFP PHOTO / Nicholas Kamm (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:08
The pillars of Trump's Afghanistan strategy
CAMP BLESSING, AFGHANISTAN - OCTOBER 22:  Artilerymen await coordinates before firing a 155mm Howlitzer on a Taliban position October 22, 2008 from Camp Blessing in the Kunar Province of eastern Afghanistan. Their unit, Charlie Battery, 3rd Battalion of the 321 Field Artilery, has fired more than 5,900 shells since it deployed to Afghanistan less than a year ago, making it the busiest artilery unit in the U.S. Army, according to to military officers. They most often fire in support of Army infantry units battling Taliban insurgents in the nearby Korengal Valley, site of some of the heaviest fighting in Afghanistan.  (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
John Moore/Getty Images
CAMP BLESSING, AFGHANISTAN - OCTOBER 22: Artilerymen await coordinates before firing a 155mm Howlitzer on a Taliban position October 22, 2008 from Camp Blessing in the Kunar Province of eastern Afghanistan. Their unit, Charlie Battery, 3rd Battalion of the 321 Field Artilery, has fired more than 5,900 shells since it deployed to Afghanistan less than a year ago, making it the busiest artilery unit in the U.S. Army, according to to military officers. They most often fire in support of Army infantry units battling Taliban insurgents in the nearby Korengal Valley, site of some of the heaviest fighting in Afghanistan. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
Now playing
00:54
Trump: US in Afghanistan to kill terrorists
US President Donald Trump speaks during his address to the nation from Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in Arlington, Virginia, on August 21, 2017.
Trump warned Monday that a hasty exit from Afghanistan would create a "vacuum" that would benefit America's jihadist foes, in a major policy address on his strategy in the 16-year conflict. / AFP PHOTO / Nicholas Kamm        (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images
US President Donald Trump speaks during his address to the nation from Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in Arlington, Virginia, on August 21, 2017. Trump warned Monday that a hasty exit from Afghanistan would create a "vacuum" that would benefit America's jihadist foes, in a major policy address on his strategy in the 16-year conflict. / AFP PHOTO / Nicholas Kamm (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
Now playing
00:42
Trump calls terrorists 'losers'
President Donald Trump speaks at Fort Myer in Arlington Va., Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, during a Presidential Address to the Nation about a strategy he believes will best position the U.S. to eventually declare victory in Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Carolyn Kaster/AP
President Donald Trump speaks at Fort Myer in Arlington Va., Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, during a Presidential Address to the Nation about a strategy he believes will best position the U.S. to eventually declare victory in Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Now playing
01:21
Trump: Our support is not a blank check
Now playing
00:45
Trump acknowledges flip-flop on Afghanistan
POOL
Now playing
01:04
Trump: Love for America requires love for all
president trump afghanistan war plan troop address_00003227.jpg
CNN
president trump afghanistan war plan troop address_00003227.jpg
Now playing
01:34
Trump: We produce a special class of heroes
US President Donald Trump walks by as reporters shout questions to him upon his arrival on the South Lawn at the White House on August 14, 2017 in Washington, DC. Later today President Trump will be meeting from Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director Christopher Wray regarding this weekendÕs events in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Mark Wilson/Getty Images
US President Donald Trump walks by as reporters shout questions to him upon his arrival on the South Lawn at the White House on August 14, 2017 in Washington, DC. Later today President Trump will be meeting from Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director Christopher Wray regarding this weekendÕs events in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:24
Will Trump send more troops to Afghanistan?
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 13:  U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee during a hearing in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill June 13, 2017 in Washington, DC. Mattis and other Pentagon leaders testified about the proposed FY2018 National Defense Authorization Budget Request.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 13: U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee during a hearing in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill June 13, 2017 in Washington, DC. Mattis and other Pentagon leaders testified about the proposed FY2018 National Defense Authorization Budget Request. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:25
Mattis: New Afghanistan strategy decided
Getty Images
Now playing
01:27
US troops in Afghanistan: A history (2017)
An injured man is transported after a car bomb attack in western Kabul, Afghanistan, on Monday, July 24.
WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images
An injured man is transported after a car bomb attack in western Kabul, Afghanistan, on Monday, July 24.
Now playing
00:46
Dozens killed in Kabul car bombing
CNN
Now playing
02:52
Marines remaining in Afghanistan face hardship

Story highlights

The Pentagon and White House have been debating airstrike policies

The discussion has been centered on whether to let U.S. warplanes strike more Taliban targets

(CNN) —  

The Defense Department on Thursday canceled an announcement to reveal changes in the U.S. military operation in Afghanistan to increase the ability to attack Taliban targets, several officials familiar with the effort told CNN.

None of the officials agreed to be identified due to the sensitivity of the discussions inside the Obama administration, and the Pentagon declined to confirm any announcement was planned for Friday. None of the officials CNN spoke with report to Defense Secretary Ash Carter.

The Pentagon and White House have been debating for weeks not only about a change to U.S. troops levels in Afghanistan but whether to amend the current military authorities that restrict U.S. airstrikes against Taliban targets. Under the current rules, the U.S. military broadly has authority to strike any targets on the ground under three scenarios: to protect U.S. forces on ground, to go after the remnants of Al Qaeda and to protect Afghan forces when they are facing imminent danger of being overrun by the Taliban.

The discussion inside the administration has been centered on whether to change those authorities so U.S. warplanes could now strike Taliban targets even if they do not pose a direct, time-sensitive imminent threat.

“The question of authorities” is being looked at, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook told reporters Thursday. The problem for the Obama administration, however, is that if there is agreement with the Afghan government to proceed, it is essentially going back to conducting military operations on a more offensive level than before.

It’s not clear if Carter had proposed to the White House a change in U.S. troop levels. Currently, there are about 9,800 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The current plan calls for a drawdown to about 5,500 next year. The drawdown could be slowed within that timeframe to keep more troops in the country for as long as possible, but it’s not clear that decision has been made.

Broadly speaking, the U.S. believes the performance of Afghan security forces has improved, according to Brigadier Gen. Charles Cleveland, the chief spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition.

But there are concerns that as the summer fighting season goes on, the Taliban will pose security problems in southern Afghanistan. “The Taliban has shifted their main effort down to Helmand,” Cleveland said.

But he noted the U.S. hasn’t seen the full Taliban offensive it expected. Still, the re-emergence of the Taliban threat has led to this vigorous discussion inside the administration about what to do about it, officials tell CNN.