U.S. may announce end of Afghan combat operations by 2014

U.S. soldiers gather before a training session with Afghan policemen on the outskirts of Kandahar City. File Photo  

The United States government is set to announce a plan to end its combat mission in Afghanistan by 2014, a goal that will require the gradual transfer of responsibility for security operations to Afghan forces over the next 18 to 24 months.

Government officials told the New York Times that a “phased four-year plan to wind down American and allied fighting in Afghanistan will be presented at a NATO summit meeting in Lisbon later this week.”

A similar announcement by the Obama administration, to begin a troop drawdown in Afghanistan by July 2011, came in for a barrage of criticism on the grounds that it could strengthen the hand of militants who might regroup after that date.

However the most recent plan, disclosed by unnamed government sources, followed closely on the heels of sharp criticism by Afghan President Hamid Karzai against the U.S.’ military presence in his country.

In an interview with the Washington Post over the weekend Mr. Karzai said “I think ten years is a long time to continue to have military operations. The time has come to reduce military operations. The time has come to reduce the presence of... boots in Afghanistan... to reduce the intrusiveness into the daily Afghan life.”

Describing night raids conducted by U.S. and other foreign troops on Afghan homes as “terrible,” Mr. Karzai lashed out at the U.S. military strategy as well, saying “The Afghan people do not like these raids in any manner. We do not like raids on our homes. This is a problem between us, and I hope this ends as soon as possible.”

General David Petraeus, Commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, was reported to have expressed “astonishment and disappointment,” over Mr. Karzai’s comments, noting that they might make the General’s position “untenable.”

Mr. Karzai’s spokesman, Waheed Omer, however quickly clarified on Monday that Mr. Karzai’s critique was not intended to undermine confidence in General Petraeus, but rather was a sign of a “maturing partnership in which both sides are willing to speak frankly.”

The President’s words notwithstanding, it is the transfer responsibility to the still-developing Afghan security forces that is at the heart of the U.S. According to reports these local forces comprise approximately 264,000 men; and the goal is to raise this number to 350,000 by 2013.

The possibility of a 2014 handover appeared to be a hit with President Barack Obama’s Republican opposition, now holding a stronger hand of cards after a sweeping victory in the House of Representatives earlier this month.

Speaking to ABC's Christiane Amanpour Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said that 2014 was the more realistic date for a drawdown.

“I think in summer of 2011 we can bring some troops home but we are going to need a substantial number of troops in Afghanistan past that,” Senator Graham said, adding that 2014 was the year in which Mr. Karzai had said Afghans would be “in the lead.”

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Printable version | Mar 8, 2021 3:26:18 AM |

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