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."


Latest Canada & World News

  • Syrian rebels launch Aleppo offensive in bid to break siege

    World News CTV News
    BEIRUT -- Fierce fighting broke out around the northern Syrian city of Aleppo Friday as rebels announced a large-scale offensive to break the government's nearly two-month siege of opposition-held areas. A reporter inside the city on the Lebanon-based Al-Mayadeen TV channel reported attacks on "all sides" of the city, "from the furthest points north to furthest south. Source
  • Student accused of taking topless Snapcat selfie, rear-ending police car

    World News CTV News
    BRYAN, Texas -- Police say a 19-year-old Texas A&M University student who rear-ended a squad car told an officer she was taking a topless selfie. Miranda Kay Rader posted $200 bond after she was charged with drunken driving and possessing alcohol as a minor. Source
  • Court appearance for teen charged in La Loche school shooting

    Canada News CTV News
    MEADOW LAKE, Sask. - A teen charged with a deadly shooting that targeted a high school and a home in northern Saskatchewan is to appear in court today. The boy, who can't be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, faces four counts of first-degree murder and seven counts of attempted murder. Source
  • Recovery efforts to find car in Lake Ontario to resume this morning

    Canada News CBC News
    Toronto police divers are expected to resume their efforts Friday morning to reach a motorist whose vehicle slammed through a guardrail and plunged off a bridge on Thursday into Lake Ontario. Police divers located the vehicle on Thursday at the bottom of a shipping channel, nearly eight metres deep, in the Cherry Street and Polson Pier area, but were unable to reach the driver. Source
  • Clinton rallies with Michelle Obama as Trump alleges corruption

    World News CTV News
    SPRINGFIELD, Ohio - Aiming to deliver a knockout blow to Donald Trump's staggering presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton turned to popular first lady Michelle Obama to rally voters in North Carolina. Trump denounced both Hillary and Bill Clinton as creatures of a corrupt political system, who would use another pass at the Oval Office to enrich themselves at the expense of American families. Source
  • Labrador man to be honoured at Rideau Hall for saving snowmobilers

    Canada News CTV News
    NAIN, N.L. - A Labrador man will accept the Medal of Bravery in Ottawa today for his rescue of two people whose snowmobile plunged through the ice last year. Ronald James Andersen was snowmobiling near Nain Bay in May 2015 when he saw the machine ahead of him fall through the ice, carrying two people into the frigid water. Source
  • National Geographic's famed 'Afghan girl' denies getting fake ID

    World News CTV News
    PESHAWAR, Pakistan - A Pakistani prosecutor says National Geographic's famed green-eyed 'Afghan Girl' has made her first appearance before a court, insisting she did not fraudulently obtain Pakistani nationality. Manzoor Aalam said Sharbat Gulla, during Friday's court hearing, essentially retracted the confession that investigators say she made after her arrest. Source
  • Cellphone use surges, so do bills. Canadians call for an end to data caps

    Canada News CBC News
    Our cellphones are so much more than phones these days. They've become a lifeline, the way we connect to everything from banking and breaking news to the loved ones in our lives. So it likely comes as no surprise that wireless internet data usage continues to skyrocket in Canada, and that we're spending more to feed our habit. Source
  • Building 'economy of the future' means good news will have to wait: Chris Hall

    Canada News CBC News
    Bill Morneau won't have a lot of good news when he rises in the House of Commons on Tuesday to deliver his fall economic update. And that, strangely enough, isn't a bad thing for a finance minister whose job is to build what Liberals call "the economy of the future. Source
  • EU trade deal 'unbalanced' against Canadian meat, industry says

    Canada News CBC News
    Protesting farmers played a role in why Wallonia's legislators voted against Canada's trade deal with Europe. Tractors were parked outside the regional legislature in Namur, Belgium, the day the no votes were cast. Then came Thursday's declaration to save the deal. Source