A Robust US Presence in Post-2014 Afghanistan
US commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Joseph Dunford said Tuesday that the US and other members of the international coalition should keep a robust force in Afghanistan after 2014, stationed in Kabul and ‘four corners’ of Afghanistan. The top US military commander in Afghanistan warned about increasing uncertainty across the region as foreign forces begin withdrawing from the country. “Many Afghans have told me they no longer fear the Taliban as much as they fear what will happen after 2014,” Dunford told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “There is a growing sense that December 2014 is a cliff for the Afghan people.”
So far, the US military commanders and White House officials have refrained from specifying the number of troops that would be left in Afghanistan after 2014. But some US senators believe there would be about 10,000 US troops and up to 7000 soldiers from US allies in post-2014 Afghanistan. Dunford’s call for a robust residual force in the post-withdrawal period in Afghanistan suggests Pentagons possible options for level of troops in the country when the US-led NATO ends its mission by next year. Despite White House’s hedging about the number of US troops that will remain in Afghanistan after 2014, US commanders say a robust presence of the US and its allies is needed to stay in Afghanistan after 2014 to support Afghan forces and carry out counterterrorism operations.
As US Gen. Joseph Dunford has said, Afghans are deeply concerned about the future when foreign forces completely withdraw from Afghanistan. Most likely, the Taliban and other insurgent groups are going to continue the war against Afghanistan’s National Security Forces (ANSF) for years. As the insurgent groups continue fighting, there is not a clear prospect for peace talks with the Taliban which Afghan and US hoped would help ending the insurgency in the country. Taking complete security responsibilities, the ANSF will need help from the US and NATO in the next decade. They would definitely continue to rely on US military in the areas of air support, heavy weaponry, logistics, medical and intelligence.
Earlier, the US top general in Afghanistan warned that the sanctuaries of the militant groups would remain a threat to the future stability of Afghanistan. The Taliban seems determined to fight Afghan forces after 2014, and a high rate of attrition leaves Afghan security forces potentially vulnerable against the insurgent groups.
Afghan and the United States officials are talking on a security pact which would define the future presence of the US in Afghanistan and the path for security cooperation between Afghanistan and the US. The Obama administration has vowed to support Afghanistan after 2014 by keeping a portion of its forces in the country, but the White House has often been vague on the size of the US and allied troops in post-Afghanistan. The Afghan government needs to secure a deal with the United States that ensures sustained support from the US to Afghanistan and the ANSF as it is going to shoulder the burden of war by its own. And, in the meantime, the US will need a robust military in Afghanistan to carry out counterterrorism operations against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, denying them from a powerful resurgence.