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    US senators oppose cut in Afghan forces end-strength

    WASHINGTON (PAN): Opposing the proposed cut in the end-strength of Afghan forces, four top American senators on Thursday urged US President Barack Obama to reject what they termed “premature and militarily unjustified” reduction.

     “We believe that this is the wrong approach for determining the future size of the Afghan security forces,” the four lawmakers wrote in a letter to Obama. The letter has been signed by Senator Carl Levin, chairman of Senate Armed Services Committee and its ranking member, Senator John McCain; besides Senators Joe Lieberman, and Lindsey Graham.

    The letter encourages the President to base Afghan force structure decisions “on a realistic assessment of the conditions they will be facing” when Afghan security forces have the security lead throughout the country and to urge the international community to provide the financial support needed to field adequate Afghan forces.

     “A key part of our Afghanistan strategy has been that, as US and coalition forces draw down, increasing numbers of capable Afghan forces will be available to sustain and expand the hard-won gains that US, coalition, and Afghan forces have secured at great cost in blood and treasure,” the Senators write.

    “Achieving this objective requires correctly sizing the ANSF to provide enduring security for their country, and ensuring the funding necessary to support that end-strength,” they said.

    The Senators expressed their deep concern about reports that in preparations for the NATO Summit in Chicago next month, US officials are advocating a long-term plan for the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) after 2014 that would sharply reduce the size of those forces, based on presumptions about the security threat years from now and the affordability of sustaining these forces. 

    “The United States needs to ensure that decisions on the future size of and funding for the ANSF will be based on security conditions in Afghanistan at that time, and not set spending levels that could not only jeopardize the progress of the past decade or weaken the security of Afghanistan when they take effect down the road but could also send the wrong message in the interim,” they said.

    For the foreseeable future, the ANSF will need to be able to contend with a resilient insurgency that enjoys sanctuary in Pakistan, they argued.

    “We believe the end-strength of our Afghan partners needed to maintain security should be based on a realistic assessment of the conditions they will be facing and it is too early to decide that conditions two to three years from now will allow a one-third reduction,” they said.

     “Cutting the end-strength of the ANSF based on highly speculative cost estimates is also shortsighted given the tens of billions of dollars that will be saved as U.S. forces withdraw from Afghanistan,” the Senators said.

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