12K troops may stay in Afghanistan
Detroit News: The U.S. and its NATO allies revealed Friday they may keep as many as 12,000 troops in Afghanistan after the combat mission ends next year, largely American forces tasked with hunting down remnants of al-Qaida and helping Afghan forces with their own security.
Patience with the 11-year-old war has grown thin in the U.S. and Europe, yet Washington and its allies feel they cannot pick up and leave without risking a repeat of what happened in Afghanistan after Soviet troops withdrew in 1989: Attention turned elsewhere, the Taliban grabbed power and al-Qaida found refuge.
In disclosing that he and his NATO counterparts were discussing a residual force of between 8,000 and 12,000 troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said most allied defense ministers assured him they are committed to remaining part of a U.S.-led coalition.
“I feel very confident that we are going to get a number of nations to make that contribution for the enduring presence,” Panetta told a news conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels.
The U.S. and its allies have managed to stick together throughout the war, despite differing views. The Europeans have seen the military mission as mainly aimed at promoting stable governance; the Americans have viewed it as mainly combat. Some allies, including France, have already pulled out their combat troops.
The Obama administration has not said how many troops or diplomats it intends to keep in Afghanistan after 2014; it is in the early stages of negotiating a bilateral security agreement with Kabul that would set the legal parameters. There currently are 66,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, down from a 2010 peak of 100,000.
In addition to targeting terrorists, the post-2014 missions are expected to be defined as training and advising a still-developing Afghan army and police force and providing security for the U.S. and allied civilian and military presence, officials said.
The largely unspoken assumption on which the post-2014 plan is built is that Afghanistan’s own forces will be strong enough to hold off the Taliban on their own starting in 2015 and to prevent the country’s relapse into civil war. The worry is that if the Taliban regained power they would allow al-Qaida to return in large numbers, defeating the original purpose of the U.S. military action in 2001.
It’s a touchy topic at this stage of a still-unfolding war, with Afghans fearful of being abandoned by their foreign partners and Washington and its NATO allies wary of committing too heavily to a corrupt Kabul government facing an uncertain future.
Panetta is expected to retire as soon as his successor is confirmed. The Senate could vote on the confirmation of former Sen. Chuck Hagel as the next Pentagon chief as early as Wednesday.
Where’s the outrage from Code Pink? They never let up on Bush and the Afghanistan War. So far the U.S. has lost 2,177 troops in Afghanistan – 1,547 (71%) of those during Obama’s presidency. Course he ommitted the fact that troops may stay after 2014 when he stated in his SOTU address, “Tonight, I can announce that over the next year, another 34,000 American troops will come home from Afghanistan,” Obama said. “This drawdown will continue. And by the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over.“
Don’t expect the SRM to hold him to any accountability for what he says/does. I say enough, bring all our troops home by 2014.