The New York Times says that the Obama Administration is still playing with the numbers of the troops that will remain in Afghanistan after their target of 2014 is reached. The Pentagon is expected to offer several plans for withdrawing the 66,000 troops by the scheduled timeline;
As one of his last acts as senior American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John R. Allen is expected to submit a formal recommendation for how quickly to begin withdrawing the United States’ 66,000 troops. Two American officials who are involved in Afghan issues said that General Allen wants to keep a significant military capability through the fighting season ending in fall 2013, which could translate to a force of more than 60,000 troops until the end of that period.
Afghan forces are to assume the lead role for the war next year, and a military officer said that such a troop level would enable the United States to better support them, maintain the initiative and control critical terrain.
But such an approach may entail a heavier military involvement than the White House, which appears weary of the war, might like.
The White House is expected to ask General Allen to submit a range of options for drawing down forces next year, including some involving substantial reductions in troop levels.
“The White House has not yet asked General Allen for his assessment, nor have we begun considering any specific recommendations for troop numbers in 2013 and 2014,” said George Little, the Pentagon spokesman. “What is true is that in June 2011 the president made clear that our forces would continue to come home at a steady pace as we transition to an Afghan lead for security. That it still the case.”
Of course, we know that no matter what the military recommends to the White House, the politicians will chose an arbitrary number that they think will make their voter base happy and will have nothing to do with winning the war.
Under the emerging plan, the American counterterrorism force might number less than 1,000, one military official said.
But, they figure that they’ll have to maintain the supply lines for the Afghans and someone will have to pick up security for the sustainers and security for the counterterrorism force. We can hardly trust the Afghans to do that, given the recent green-on-blue attacks. Whatever the number the White House finally arrives at will be no where near the actual number.