No change in troop level post 2014: Pentagon
WASHINGTON (Pajhwok): The Pentagon on Tuesday ruled out any change in US troop level of 9,800 in post-2014 Afghanistan as determined by President Obama earlier, but said that talks with NATO partners were underway in this regard.
The explanation comes after media reports said the US may increase the number of troops by 1000 it keeps in Afghanistan in 2015 to fill a gap left in the NATO mission by other contributing nations.
“The 9,800 is the number that the president has authorised for the American presence in Resolute Support, but that still means there's a couple of thousand or so that need to be provided by coalition partners,” said Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby at a news conference here.
However, he said they were still in discussions with NATO partners in this regard after the bilateral security agreement with Kabul was signed fairly late.
Responding to questions US is planning to change its troops number post 2014, Kirby said “as we stand here today, there is no change to the 9,800 force level.”
“There has been no decision to expand the authorities that our troops have, commander has, to defend those troops or to continue to prosecute and go after terrorist targets. There's been expansion of those authorities or the policies that govern those authorities,” he said.
Going into 2015, “we've always said there's going to be two missions for our troops going forward. One is to resolute support which is the train, advise and assist mission, the NATO mission in Afghanistan, and the other is, of course, to continue to conduct counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan and those will continue,” he added.
“Valid terrorist targets will continue to be prosecuted and our troops will continue to have the right and the ability to defend themselves when needed,” Kirby said.
He said that “we will be targeting be members of Al Qaida or Al Qaida-affiliated networks and other terrorist groups who continue to pose a threat to the national security of the United States and to the lives of our troops.”
He made it clear that “while we won't target Taliban for the just merely for the sake of the fact that they're Taliban and quote unquote, "belligerents," should members of the Taliban decide to threaten American troops or specifically target and threaten our Afghan partners in a tactical situation, we're going to reserve the right to take action as needed,” he noted.
Kirby said since the bilateral security agreement got signed fairly late in the process, the coalition partners and allies continued to examine their resourcing and so there may need to be some flexibility with respect to what they're able to provide.
“But nothing's changed as we speak today about the 9,800 number. Inside that number, will be a component dedicated to the counterterrorism missions. I don't have an exact figure on that, and I don't anticipate any major structural changes with respect to that,” Kirby added.
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