No decision yet on troop levels cut: Petraeus
WASHINGTON (PAN): The top US and NATO commander in Afghanistan on Tuesday told American lawmakers that he had not yet decided on reduction in troop levels from Afghanistan, but asserted the drawdown would begin as planned.
Testifying before the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee, Gen. David Petraeus responded to questions from lawmakers about troops' pullout as announced by US President Barack Obama in December 2009. “The drawdown is on schedule, but no decision has so far been made on the level of reduction of troops from Afghanistan,” Petraeus said.
Under secretary of defence for policy, Michele Flournoy, supports the July 2011 drawdown.
Petraeus said Afghan President Hamid Karzai would announce locations to be fist handed over to Afghan lead in his new year's address on the occasion of Nawroz festivities on March 21. In with principles adopted by the North Atlantic Council, the security transition from ISAF to Afghan forces would be carried at a pace determined by conditions on the ground and with assessments provided from the bottom up so that those at operational command level in Afghanistan could plan the resulting “battlefield geometry” adjustments with Afghan partners.
“According to NATO principles, transition will see our forces thinning out, not just handing off, with reinvestment of some of the forces freed up by transition in contiguous areas or in training missions where more work is needed. Similar processes are also taking place as we commence transition of certain training and institutional functions from ISAF trainers to their Afghan counterparts,” Petraeus said.
Flournoy said that the transition is a process by which ISAF will “thin out” and progressively shift, as conditions allow, from a partnering role, to a mentoring role. However, the headquarters elements will be retained, even as combat elements thin out to facilitate and enable ANSF operations.
“We should expect the implementation of the transition process to reflect the diverse circumstances and varied requirements of districts and provinces across Afghanistan,” Flournoy said.
In his remarks, the Ranking Republican member in the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator John McCain, cautioned the General on withdrawal of troops. “We need to be exceedingly cautious about withdrawals of US forces this July, as the President has called for, and we should be mindful that perhaps the wisest course of action in July may be to reinvest troops from more secured to less secured parts of Afghanistan, where additional forces could have a decisive impact. In short, we should not rush to failure, and we should cultivate strategic patience,” McCain said.
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