Dempsey: President’s Troop Decision Aligns Tasks, Resources
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT, May 27, 2014 President Barack Obama’s decision to keep 9,800 U.S. troops in Afghanistan next year “aligns tasks with resources,” the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said today.
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said as long as the tasks and resources are aligned, the U.S. military can execute the decision. The chairman is traveling to the United Arab Emirates and Singapore.
The president’s decision is contingent on Afghanistan signing the bilateral security agreement with the United States, and it will be focused on two missions: advising and assisting Afghan national security forces and a counterterrorism mission against the remnants of al-Qaida in the area.
Military leaders in the region were relieved at the decision. Dempsey called Afghan Gen. Sher Mohammed Karimi, the chief of defense, with the news this morning.
“When I spoke to him and informed him of the president’s decision to provide Operation Resolute Support with approximately 9,800 U.S. service members in a regional construct, he said ‘Thank God,’” Dempsey said.
Dempsey said he told Karimi that he was pleased to hear him answer that way. “He said to me, ‘We’re very happy with that. That certainty will allow us to continue our transition, and we deeply appreciate what America’s sons and daughters have done for us over the years,’” Dempsey said.
The chairman’s Pakistani counterpart, Gen. Rashad Mahmood, also was also pleased with the news, Dempsey said, noting that Rashad has worried about the effect the uncertainty is having on Afghanistan.
For months, military leaders have recommended the United States keep around 10,000 personnel in Afghanistan once the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force mission ends Dec. 31. Uncertainty about the bilateral security agreement has complicated the situation. Afghan President Hamid Karzai negotiated the agreement, but then refused to sign it, saying the decision should be made by his successor.
The Afghan runoff election is set for June 14, and both candidates – former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah and former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani – have said they will sign the pact. Once the agreement is signed, a NATO status of forces agreement will be signed as well, allowing the follow-up mission – Operation Resolute Support – to start Jan. 1. NATO and partner countries will field between a third to half again as many troops as the United States.
As Afghan forces continue to develop, administration officials expect the number of U.S. service members based in the country to drop. By the end of 2015, officials expect the number of American troops in the country to drop to around 4,500.
The number of troops allows for a regional approach to the assist-and-advise mission, officials said. The headquarters will be in the Afghan capital of Kabul, with regional centers at Bagram Airfield, Kandahar, Mazar-e Sharif and Herat. As the number of troops drop, these forces will be consolidated in Kabul and Bagram. By the end of 2016, officials expect a normal U.S. embassy presence with a security assistance office.
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