Pentagon to seek funds for 352,000 Afghan troops till 2017
CAMP DAVID (Pajhwok): The Pentagon will seek Congressional approval to fund sustenance of 352,000 Afghan troops through 2017, US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said on Monday following talks with the visiting Afghan leaders.
“Today we can announce the Defense Department intends to seek funding for Afghan forces to sustain an end strength of 352,000 personnel through 2017,” Carter told reporters at a news conference at this presidential retreat.
Carter said it was part of unwavering commitment to a strong and enduring strategic partnership with Afghanistan. The issue will be further discussed at the White House with President Obama during talks with Ashraf Ghani.
Both Carter and Secretary of State John Kerry refrained from responding to questions on changes in the troop drawdown plans, saying talks on the issue were still ongoing and a final decision would be taken by President Obama.
“Obama and Ghani have had regular discussions about the transition that is taking place in Afghanistan. Ghani has requested some flexibility in that process, and it’s our understanding – it’s our knowledge that Obama is actively considering that request,” Kerry said.
Ghani too left the final decision to Obama, saying the two nations strategic partners, bound by common interests and acting together to ensure the safety of the United States and Afghanistan..
“Numbers are a means; they are not an end in themselves. So we are not going to get involved in any discussion of numbers. That’s a field for experts, and we defer to the judgment of those experts such as General Campbell...” he added.
The Afghan forces were in a tremendous and admirable process of change and evolution, taking on new missions, Carter noted, saying they were further developing their special operations forces.
“With respect to the number of US forces, that is something that will be discussed with Obama tomorrow, but for the specific about US and coalition forces after 2016, our objective – and I think the president has made this very clear – is to be down to a very small enduring presence in 2017 and beyond," Carter said.
Ghani emphasised that Afghanistan is shifting from an emphasis on quantity to one of quality. “As the conditions change, we will be viewing and reviewing actively. What is critical at this moment with the train, advise, assist mission is on the one hand, to focus on training, leadership, and an orderly change,” he said.
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