Afghanistan’s long-term viability at risk: Pentagon
WASHINGTON (Pajhwok): A top Pentagon commander on Wednesday told US lawmakers that Afghanistan’s long-term viability was likely to be at high risk due an expected upsurge of extremists in the absence of a bilateral security agreement.
“I think a zero option would be very problematic for the country of Afghanistan,” General Lloyd J Austin, Commander of the US Central Command said during a Congressional hearing convened by the House Armed Services Committee.
"I think it'd also be bad for the region. I think we would see significant hedging activity with the key
countries in that region; and again, that would lead towards greater instability for some time to come.”
The general said the US leadership was currently undergoing a decision-making process to determine the size of a force to remain in Afghanistan after 2014.
He noted the size of a residual force had always been based on what missions the US was trying to accomplish. “Our principle missions are going forward, will be to continue to advise the Afghan security forces, also to counter terrorism,” he added.
“If the United States and Afghanistan are unable to achieve a BSA, we will move rapidly to consider alternatives for continuing a security cooperation relationship with Afghanistan,” he informed.
Noting that operations in Afghanistan remain his top priority, he said his goal is to conduct a successful transition in Afghanistan while also helping to achieve a capable and sustainable Afghan National Security Force (ANSF).
“Equally important are our continued efforts in support of ongoing CT missions. We must maintain pressure on terrorist networks to avoid resurgence in capability that could lead to an attack on our homeland or our interests,” he said.
General Austin said the US retrograde operations remain on-track, with the vast majority of movement being conducted via ground through Pakistan.
“We have several means for conducting retrograde available to us, including multiple ground routes through Pakistan and the Northern Distribution Network (NDN) in Central Asia, Russia and the Caucasus,” he said.
The commander said the American intent is to maintain an enduring relationship with the Afghan military as they work together to preserve improved security and stability in the region.
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