U.S. commander says proposed troop cuts would leave too few to train Afghans

WASHINGTON - The senior U.S. commander in Afghanistan says if the American troop level is cut to 5,500 as President Barack Obama has proposed, there will be too few left to train the still-fledgling Afghan security forces.

See Full Article

Army Gen. John F. Campbell's assessment underscores the risks of Obama's longstanding goal of ending the war before he leaves office in January 2017.

The president's critics said leaving the Afghans without enough American military trainers would imperil the gains made since 2002, when the U.S. committed to rebuilding the country. Nearly $64 billion has been allotted so far for building up the Afghan army and police.

"Fifty-five hundred militarily will not allow you to do what you need to do," Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican who is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Wednesday. "It puts the whole mission at risk."

Yet patience among other lawmakers is fraying with the finish line so far away. The Afghans won't be able to independently sustain their security forces until 2024, according to Campbell.

Campbell, who is expected to retire soon, is scheduled to testify Thursday before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

He appeared Tuesday before the House Armed Services Committee and described the Afghan security forces as becoming increasingly competent. Yet significant hurdles remain and "persistent" training and advising is required to overcome them, he said.

The challenges facing the Afghans are largely structural, such as building an adequate air force, gathering intelligence, maintaining warfighting equipment, budgeting and personnel management. As an example of how time consuming this all can be, Campbell pointed to the effort required to recruit and train military pilots.

"You've got to start that now and make sure they realize if you recruit a guy now, you're not going to see him for another three years before he can be a pilot," he said.

Initially, Obama said he would reduce the U.S. force in Afghanistan to 5,500 troops by the end of last year, and then down to 1,000 by the end of 2016. But Obama backtracked in October, saying the situation remained too fragile for such a rapid withdrawal.

The current U.S. force of about 9,800 would stay in place through most of 2016 to perform counterterrorism missions and to train and advise the Afghan forces, Obama said during remarks from the Roosevelt Room in the White House. The reduction to 5,500 would occur "by the end of 2016," Obama said, although he didn't specify exactly when. The smaller force would still be expected to handle the dual-pronged mission.

During an exchange with Rep. Jim Bridenstine, an Oklahoma Republican, Campbell said a force of 5,500 would be focused on conducting counterterrorism operations.

"So we won't be able to do (the training mission) at those numbers?" Bridenstine asked. "We'll have a very limited ability to do (training) with 5,500 number," Campbell responded.

Sen. Thom Tillis, a North Carolina Republican and a member of the Armed Services Committee, said Wednesday that a reduction would do more than undercut the training mission.

"We're missing an enormous opportunity to continue to stabilize the region but also to ... gain intelligence against people who are planning attacks," Tillis said. "I think we're at the low-water mark where we are today."

But frustration over the uncertainty of when the mission will end was evident at Tuesday's hearing in the House.

Rep. Jackie Speier, a California Democrat, asked whether Americans should accept the fact that U.S. forces will be in Afghanistan permanently, much like they are in South Korea.

Campbell said the U.S. presence in Afghanistan is nowhere close to what it was in Korea. But he also noted the benefits of having American troops stationed overseas.

"It's going to continue to be a dangerous world for the rest of our lives," Campbell said. "We have to do everything we can to build up capability for countries, like Afghanistan, to help us in that fight. And they want to do that."



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Trial of B.C. polygamous sect followers to hear defence's closing arguments

    Canada News CTV News
    CRANBROOK, B.C. - A defence lawyer in a trial involving three people with ties to a British Columbia polygamous community is expected to deliver his closing arguments today. John Gustafson is representing Brandon Blackmore, who is accused of taking a 13-year-old girl into the United States for a sexual purpose in 2004. Source
  • Recovery of Oakland warehouse fire victims winds down; investigation looms

    World News CTV News
    OAKLAND, Calif. -- Some people were able to text loved ones goodbye and "I love you" before they died in an Oakland warehouse fire that claimed three dozen lives, officials said, as heart-rending reports of victims' last moments emerged from the most lethal building fire in the U.S. Source
  • 80 per cent of Filipino youth suffer violence, UNICEF survey says

    World News CTV News
    MANILA, Philippines - A United Nations agency that promotes children's rights says its survey shows a high prevalence of violence against Filipino children, with eight out of 10 suffering some form of physical or psychological abuse, with the highest number of incidents found among lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender youth. Source
  • Klay Thompson of NBA's Warriors scores 60 points in just 29 minutes

    World News CBC News
    Klay Thompson wanted one more quarter. He wanted to score 80, and thinks he absolutely could have. Hard to argue that one: He went off for 60 points in 29 head-shaking, jaw-dropping, defense-breaking minutes. "Who knows? I know he would have kept shooting," coach Steve Kerr said. Source
  • Bill Cosby's stunning deposition can be used at trial, judge rules

    World News CBC News
    Damaging testimony that Bill Cosby gave in an accuser's lawsuit, including admissions that he gave young women drugs and alcohol before sex, can be used at his sex assault trial, a judge ruled Monday. The defence has insisted Cosby testified only after being promised he would never be charged over his 2004 encounter with accuser Andrea Constand, a Toronto native. Source
  • 'We have lost everything': Syrians return to Aleppo

    World News CTV News
    ALEPPO, Syria -- Amina Hamawy burst into tears and then fainted when she returned to eastern Aleppo to find that looters had ransacked her home. "Where am I? What happened?" she asked after her husband and daughter revived her. Source
  • U.S. watching Ferguson, lead monitor says in bid to end racial bias in policing and courts

    World News CTV News
    FERGUSON, Mo. - The lead monitor overseeing efforts to eradicate racial bias in Ferguson's police and court system told residents Monday that the "eyes of the whole nation" are on the St. Louis suburb. Clark Ervin spoke to about 100 people at a town hall meeting in the town forever changed following the Aug. Source
  • Texas Republican won't cast electoral college vote for Trump

    World News CBC News
    A Republican member of the Electoral College from Texas said Monday that he won't cast one of his state's 38 electoral votes for Donald Trump because "I am here to elect a president, not a king. Source
  • Could Dakota Access pipeline move after permit denial?

    World News CTV News
    OMAHA, Neb. - The Army's refusal to grant a permit for the Dakota Access oil pipeline to cross beneath the Missouri River has focused more attention on alternative routes, but several other options already have been considered and rejected as being more risky and expensive. Source
  • Cuba starts return to normal as mourning for Castro ends

    World News CTV News
    HAVANA -- Music is playing in the streets again. Tourists are sipping mojitos at sidewalk cafes. Flags are flapping at full staff. After nine days of national mourning for Fidel Castro, Cuba is slowly returning to noisy, boisterous normality. Source