General John Allen said Tuesday that US military forces may be in Afghanistan past 2014.
General Allen, the head commander of US forces in Afghanistan, said in an interview with the New York Times that a number of advisers, trainers, and intelligence specialists would stay in the region for some period of time beyond the scheduled withdrawal in 2014.
General Allen is the highest-ranking official yet to suggest that US forces would be in Afghanistan after the withdrawal, though he is not the only one. Ryan Crocker, the American ambassador to Afghanistan, said this month that the United States was open to keeping forces there if the Afghanistan government requested them, the New York Times reported.
Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai has asked for a long-term engagement from the US and other countries with forces in the region. General John Allen told the Times that Karzai had, “in fact, just the other day talked about his desire to have conversations with the U.S. about a post-2014 force.”
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President Obama has not ruled out keeping forces in Afghanistan, but has not made it a part of public discussion yet, the New York Times reported.
General Allen laid out his vision for the upcoming years in the region to the Times. He said that he foresees military trainers going to Afghanistan to work with Afghan troops in 2012, and more arriving in 2013 as Afghan security forces became more active. Most units in Afghanistan are coupled up with NATO units, who still have a large role in many parts of the country. He said that American Special Operations forces, who conduct larger, more dangerous operations and intelligence raids, would remain at their current numbers or even increase.
General Allen told the Times that the insurgency's vision of having full control over Afghanistan after 2014 would be diminished if US and foreign donors continued their presence in the country.
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“So if you are the insurgency and you had to rely on popular local support, or if you are the insurgency and part of the foundational dimension of your doctrine has been — I am just being a little facetious here — that on January 1st, 2015, it is going to be the Afghan government against the insurgency, that doctrine is now at risk,” he told the New York Times.
US troops have been battling the Islamist insurgency in Afghanistan for ten years, since they invaded in 2001 and toppled the Taliban. They are scheduled to pass their security duties over to Afghan troops by 2015, AFP reported. The United States plans to withdraw 10,000 troops this year. 91,000 will remain in Afghanistan until next year. An additional 23,000 are scheduled to leave by the end of September.