5,500 troops enough for Afghanistan after 2016: Carter
WASHINGTON (Pajhwok): US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter on Thursday said 5,500 American troops in Afghanistan after 2016 would be a good enough number to help achieve the goalof stability.
He strongly refuted criticism from some quarters that such the number of troops beyond next year, as outlinedby President Obama, was not adequate for counter-terrorism operations.
“We do look at it as enough. We did a lot of homework on this, and it's the reason for that troop level, but also the locations that is important,” Carter told reporters at a Pentagon news conference.
“I want to just make sure we all keep track of the funding also, which is vitally important. Those are the ingredients of continuing to prosecute the mission in a way that can be successful,” he added.
As of now the Pentagon has planned for 5,500 troops in Afghanistan, but Carter indicated other decisions regarding the timeframe would be made by a future president.
The present administration would make judgments taking into account the circumstances pertainingto the time and necessary adjustments, he said.
“But this is our best guess and certainly with our advice to the president for what would be sufficient and a good basis for planning for 2017,” Carter said.
He believed a lot also depended on the success of the Afghan troops in the coming years. “One is how successful we are with our Afghan partners at suppressing terrorism and carrying out strikes aimed at, first of all, obviously, eliminating Al Qaeda and anyone else who threatens the US.”
A second big indicator would be how the Afghan security forces fared in terms of combat performance and building of their own enablers, the air force, for example, the A-29s, helicopter forces, he noted.
“These will be some of the things that we are aiming to achieve over the next year and I think the president's decision reflects the fact that it will be easier for us to achieve those things which Afghanistan needs at a force level of 9,800 than it would be if we wound down faster,” he said.
By January 2017, US forces will draw down to 5,500 and they will be deployed at several locations around Afghanistan, including Kabul, Bagram, Kandahar and Jalalabad, to train, advise and assist Afghan security forces, he said.
“We are adjusting our presence based on conditions on the ground to give the United States and our allies the capability to sustain a robust counterterrorism platform, denying a safe haven for terrorists and violent extremist organizations,” Carter concluded.
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