10k US troops to stay in Afghanistan past 2014 deadline

AFP Photo / Shah Marai
Ten thousand US troops will stay in Afghanistan past 2014, senior officials say, despite earlier demands from President Barack Obama to end the war during the second year of his upcoming term.

Most of the 66,000 or so troops currently positioned in Afghanistan will be removed by President Obama’s predetermined deadline, sources say, but a substantial amount of Americans will be asked to remain indefinitely to conduct training and counterterrorism operations after allied North Atlantic Treaty Organization troops are expunged in late 2014.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Gen. John Allen, the top US commander overseeing the war in Afghanistan, proposed that anywhere from 6,000 to 15,000 troops remain overseas following the end of the current NATO operation occurring there. A number closer to 10,000 was established after top Obama administration officials reached a compromise with the Pentagon, the paper reports.

However, the claims have not been confirmed by the Obama administration, with White House spokesman Jay Carney telling reporters Monday that the president was still reviewing the proposal.

"He will evaluate proposals from the Pentagon and elsewhere on what we might negotiate with the Afghan government on a future presence in Afghanistan," after the 2014 deadline, Carney told the press, adding that "that presence would be very limited in scope."

If the Obama administration does approve the plan, Afghan President Hamid Karzai will have to give his blessing before any number of residual troops is made official. The Journal reports that such an agreement is likely, pending Washington’s willingness to agree to Kabul’s key demands, including an all but certain provision stipulating that US troops be tried in Afghan courts for any future mishaps while in the country. Only after a deal is struck between presidents Obama and Karzai will the final number be cemented.

"At the appropriate time, the president will make decisions about the future scope and size of our presence in Afghanistan based on what is in our national interest and in coordination with our Afghan and [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] partners," Pentagon press secretary George Little told the Journal.

Along the campaign trail leading up to the November 6 election, Pres. Obama made a point of touting his administration’s ending of the war in Iraq and the planned exit from Afghanistan. During a televised debate, Vice President Joe Biden echoed that plan, insisting, “We are leaving in 2014, period.”

Just last month, though, the Pentagon official expected to soon take over for Gen. Allen’s role as top commander in Afghanistan announced that he was planning on leaving Americans in Afghanistan as long as necessary.

“[W]e’ll be there beyond 2014 to secure our objectives,” Gen. Joseph Dunford told lawmakers on the Hill this month while fielded questions from Congress. “It’s a question of confidence in the Afghan people that we will remain, confidence in the Afghanistan national security forces that we will remain,” confidence in the “capitols that we will remain,” and confidence among “regional actors that we will remain,” Dunford said.

In May of this year, Pres. Obama said, "As our coalition agreed, by the end of 2014 the Afghans will be fully responsible for the security of their country.”