‘Absence of US presence post 2014 to boost Al Qaeda’
WASHINGTON (Pajhwok): General Joseph Dunford, Commander of US NATO forces in Afghanistan, on Wednesday warned that the complete withdrawal of American troops by the end of 2014 would only help boost the morale of terrorist organizations like al Qaeda.
Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, the American General suggested a presence of some 8,000 to 12,000 US troops in Afghanistan after 2014.
Responding to questions from Senators, Dunford indicated that the US can wait till September for the bilateral security agreement (BSA) to be signed, after which the risk would be too high.
“To me, the delay in the BSA -- part of it is the military campaign, begins to be high-risk. If we don't make a decision by September, we have high risk against an orderly withdrawal,” Dunford said.
“That's simply because of how long it takes to get all the equipment out, all the people out and to transfer all the facilities. We start to run into a situation where there are as many tasks to do as there are days to do those before the 31st of December. So that's why I characterize that as high-risk, subsequent to September,” Dunford said.
According to the top American general, the real challenge with the delay in the BSA and the delay in certainty post-2015 actually starts in Kabul with the leadership, the Afghan people and the Afghan Security Forces across the country.
“I think it also is fair to say that currently the uncertainty about 2015 affects the behavior of regional actors, to include Pakistan. And those nations are hedging, not certain what will be -- what the facts on the ground will be in 2015,” he said.
Dunford said he supported a force of 8,000 to 12,000 NATO forces to provide, train, advise, assist at the Afghan corps level. “I'm comfortable with that range and our ability to accomplish the train-advise mission with that allocation of forces. And then over and above that we have always assumed on the U.S. side that there would be additional thousands of forces to conduct counterterrorism operations,” he said.
The top American general warned of deterioration in situation in Afghanistan absence of no US troop presence in the country. “If we leave at the end of 2014, the Afghan security forces will begin to deteriorate. The security environment will begin to deteriorate, and I think the only debate is the pace of that deterioration,” he said.
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