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Dempsey in Afghanistan as US Mulls Pullout

Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey at ISAF headquarters in Kabul

KABUL – Amid talk of contingency plans for a total military pullout, the US Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman arrived in Afghanistan on Wednesday, the military said. Absent a signed security deal post 2014, President Barack Obama has directed the Pentagon to ensure that it has adequate plans in place to accomplish an orderly withdrawal should the US not keep any troops in the country.

Dempsey told reporters travelling with him he recommended the US military begin the planning process. But the order to begin the planning process does not mean an end to an American and NATO presence in Afghanistan next year. According to the American Forces Press Service, Dempsey said: “The idea here is we’re at the point where we have to begin planning for other options. We’ve seen it coming, and I’m sure I’ll find our junior leaders are ahead of me on this.”

He added the US had reached a point where it had to plan for other options, including a complete withdrawal by the end of 2014. But he explained in the same breath it was not an indication that the US was not committed to a mission beyond the end of 2014. “All this planning for ’15 is important, but we have some really heavy lifting to do for the Afghans this year, and I want to make sure we stay focused on it,” he said, adding they would work with Afghan forces to ensure the April 5 election happened safely.

Dempsey indicated a US interest in a continued presence in Afghanistan. “The United States does not want to leave Afghanistan, principally because al-Qaida — the ideological movement that manifests itself in violence and anti-American, anti-Western activities — is still alive.” the general said. (PAN)

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