Presence in Afghanistan Would Be Modest: Pentagon
WASHINGTON – Ruling out a zero option, the top Pentagon leadership on Sunday said that the US would have a “modest” presence in Afghanistan after 2014, the exact numbers of which they are still discussing.
“I’ve never heard anyone suggest — no one has ever suggested zero to me. And I think that the ultimate number will be based on the mission and how deeply we want to be involved with their continued development, and also what they want. I mean, literally what the sovereign nation of Afghanistan wants,” General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the CNN in a joint appearance with Leon Panetta, the Defense Secretary.
Any decision on the troop numbers after 2014, would be based on three things in equilibrium, he said. “The campaign objectives which are very laid out in Chicago and Lisbon with our NATO allies. Retrograde, we have got a pretty significant challenge of getting ourselves out of Afghanistan in terms of equipment and force protection. And we’ll keep those three things in equilibrium,” Dempsey said.
Praising the development of the Afghan National Security Forces, which is increasingly taking the responsibility of the country’s security, Dempsey said the US presence in Afghanistan after 2014 would be modest.
“My feel for it now is that the missions that we’ve accepted post ’14 with the Afghan government and our NATO allies, which largely relate to the counter-terror mission, continuing to keep pressure on transnational global terrorism as well as the continued development of the Afghan security forces. My instinct that their development is moving at a pace and their acceptance of responsibility is moving at a pace that our numbers after ’14 can be modest,” Dempsey said.
The most important thing that’s happened is that the Afghan army has become operational, Panetta said in response to a question. “They have developed their ability to provide security. We couldn’t make a transition in the areas that need add transition, which involves over 75 percent of the Afghan population right now is in under Afghan control and under Afghan security,” he said.
“We couldn’t do that if there weren’t an Afghan army that was becoming much more capable of doing their job. If we maintain a 352,000 number, which is what we’re trying to achieve, if we maintain that…..and they become good, that is going to determine, then, the level of enduring presence that we will have once we reach the end of 2014,” Panetta said. (PAN)