Calendar-based Afghan exit places US security at risk: McCain
WASHINGTON (Pajhwok): Withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan without taking into account the ground realities would put at risk the security of the United States, a top Republican Senator said Thursday.
“I fear that the latest calendar-based withdrawal plan places these missions and, therefore, our nation’s security at risk,” Senator John McCain, Chairman of the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee, said.
While President Obama made the right decision to keep 9,800 US troops in Afghanistan, he repeated, the strategic folly of setting a timetable for withdrawal ignoring conditions on the ground discouraged allies and gave hope to the enemies, he said.
In his remarks during a Congressional hearing on Afghanistan at the Senate Armed Services Committee, McCain said he continued to be disheartened by the perpetual political focus on troop numbers.
“This discussion should be first about what capabilities we need to protect our national security and second about the number of troops it takes to enable those capabilities,” he said.
“The 5,500 US troops that will be left in Afghanistan if this plan goes forward will be adequate for either the counterterrorism mission or the train, advise, and assist mission, but not both.”
“This smaller American force will inevitably be forced to shoulder a higher level of risk to themselves, to their mission, and to the national security of the United States,” he insisted.
McCain said to secure Afghanistan and prevent another attack on the US required right capabilities in the right places, supported by the right number of people with the right authorities
“It is time to give US commanders the resources and authorities they need to seize the initiative and force the enemy to react, instead of the other way around.”
In his testimony, General Campbell, Commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, said the United State must continue to show flexibility with its mission in 2016 and beyond.
“As the commander, I am responsible for aligning our national objectives with ways and means while managing risk. Now that we have been allocated our resources for 2016, I am assessing the ways in which we ensure that 2016 is not a rerun of 2015,” he said.
“Based on conditions and the performance of the Afghan security forces during this winter lull, I am also reviewing how well those forces will likely perform in 2017 and the US and coalition resources required for their continued development,” he added.
Campbell told the Senators it was important to remember that this time last year, the plan was to transition to a 1,000 troop, Kabul-centric footprint.
“Due to conditions on the ground, the President made the decision to extend 9,800 through most of 2016, and increased our posture to 5,500 in 2017.”
“This decision provided flexibility to make adjustments and represents the kind of conditions based approach that is so important for our mission in Afghanistan,” he said.
Campbell said key to the long-term success in the region was the resiliency of the Afghan government and its security institutions and the ability to serve as a regional partner in combined efforts to counter violent extremism.
“It’s important to remember that the National Unity Government welcomes our assistance. They are a dependable and steadfast counterterrorism partner in South Asia.”
“2017 marks a significant change in our approach as we focus our efforts to capitalize on the gains of the past decade and build the capacity of the Afghan security institutions,” the general said.
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