Dempsey cautions against faster pullout
WASHINGTON (PAN): As the Obama administration mulls the zero option in Afghanistan, a top Pentagon general said on Thursday a faster pullout or leaving no troops behind would compromise the sustainability of Afghan forces.
“Withdrawing faster and leaving zero troops in Afghanistan would likely compromise the sustainability of ANSF. It would also impact on our ability to retrograde all our personnel and equipment…” said the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Gen. Martin Dempsey, testifying before Senate Armed Services Committee members, said he continued to support an enduring presence post-2014 to support ANSF development and meet US security interests.
In written answers to the committee during his re-confirmation hearing at the Capitol Hill, the general said Afghan forces continued to grow into a confident and capable force. “We are focusing on leadership development as fundamental to the professionalisation of ANSF.”
Dempsey, who leaves for Afghanistan on Friday, added he had recommended to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and President Barack Obama the 352,000 Afghan force level should continue beyond 2014.
“The extension of the ANSF “surge” force is crucial to put Afghans at the fore to provide their own security. At this time, it is premature to assess the duration of this surge, but at a minimum, this extension would likely be necessary for at least two years following the end of the ISAF mission to counter the possibility of Taliban resurgence after the departure of coalition forces,” he asserted.
Dempsey reiterated the US long-term commitment to a strategic partnership with the Afghan government and people. “We have a strategic interest in making sure Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for Al-Qaida and its affiliates...”
He believed the US must have exclusive criminal and civil jurisdiction over its personnel stationed in Afghanistan. “This is fundamental protection we provide our service members overseas. We must also ensure that we have necessary operational authorities to accomplish our mission.”
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