US General Suggests Longer Term Military Presence in Afghanistan

Posted December 21st, 2011 at 9:25 pm (UTC-5)
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The commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan has signaled that the United States could maintain a military presence in that country beyond the scheduled withdrawal of American troops in 2014.

In an interview published in Thursday’s edition of the New York Times, General John Allen said negotiations with the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai will almost certainly cover “what a post-2014 force would look like.” This, he said, probably would involve “some number of advisers, trainers and intelligence specialists” for a period of time beyond 2014.

The U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker, recently was quoted as saying the United States would, after 2014, continue to provide assistance to the country’s economic and security sectors. But the general is the highest-ranking American military official to suggest the possibility of a longer term U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan.

A spokesperson for Afghanistan’s defense ministry told reporters Wednesday that the country is making progress in training its forces and that the number of Afghan National Army troops now stands at 180,000. He said the goal of the expansion is 240,000, a force he said would be able to take control of internal and external security across the country after 2014.

NATO forces already have begun handing over security responsibility to Afghan forces ahead of the 2014 withdrawal.

The Polish contingent of the NATO coalition force on Wednesday suffered the highest number of deaths in the decades-long war. Five Polish soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb in eastern Ghazani province.

Poland, which has more than 2,500 troops stationed in Afghanistan, is said to have lost 36 soldiers.