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

  • Insurers say Canadian weather getting weirder

    Canada News CBC News
    If it seems as if the weather's getting weirder, you're not wrong. An index of extreme weather in Canada compiled by the insurance industry backs that up.VIDEO | Tofino resort experiences 'perfect storm' during extreme wave warning eventWEATHER ANALYSIS | The science behind the 'weather bomb' heading our way"Yes, we see definite trends that can't be explained by normal variability," said Caterina Lindman of the Canadian Institute of Actuaries. Source
  • Yemeni deaths due to diphtheria likely to rise amid blockade

    World News CTV News
    SANAA, Yemen -- Deaths resulting from a diphtheria outbreak in Yemen are "likely to rise" if the naval blockade imposed by a Saudi-led coalition fighting to defeat Shiite rebels in war-torn Yemen remains in place, an international aid group warned on Monday. Source
  • Farmers Dairy milk pulled from shelves for 'off-taste flavour'

    Canada News CBC News
    Farmers Dairy has announced it's pulling several milk products from shelves in Atlantic Canada after customers reported a chemical taste.Farmers Dairy discontinues Beep for second time"This withdrawal is only preventive and there is no health risk associated with consuming these products," the company said in a statement posted to its Facebook page Saturday. Source
  • Greeks rally over name dispute with neighbour Macedonia

    World News CTV News
    THESSALONIKI, Greece -- Tens of thousands of flag-waving Greeks gathered in the northern city of Thessaloniki on Sunday to demand that Macedonia change its name because it's also the name of the Greek province of which Thessaloniki is the capital. Source
  • Pope wraps Latin America trip haunted by Chile abuse scandal

    World News CTV News
    LIMA, Peru -- Pope Francis wrapped up his visit to Peru on Sunday by denouncing the plague of corruption sweeping through Latin America. But controversy over his accusations that Chilean sex abuse victims slandered a bishop continued to cast a shadow over what has become the most contested and violent trip of his papacy. Source
  • Appeals court to hear arguments on D.C. sniper's sentence

    World News CTV News
    RICHMOND, Va. -- Bob Meyers doesn't want partial justice for his brother. He wants full justice. And to him, that means leaving D.C. sniper Lee Boyd Malvo's sentence just the way it is: life in prison, with no chance of ever getting out. Source
  • Filmmaker aboard icebreaker documents aborted mission to study Arctic climate change

    Canada News CBC News
    When Manitoba filmmaker Christopher Paetkau embarked on a research journey to study the effects of climate change in the high Arctic, he never expected those same effects to thwart the very mission he was there to document. Source
  • Poland looking into undercover report of neo-Nazis celebrating Hitler

    World News CTV News
    WARSAW, Poland -- An undercover television report that exposed Polish neo-Nazis dressed in Nazi uniforms celebrating Adolf Hitler's birthday and burning a swastika has prompted Poland's prime minister to denounce fascism and authorities to launch an investigation. Source
  • No Canadians hurt in Kabul hotel siege: Global Affairs

    Canada News CTV News
    Global Affairs Canada says Canadians were not among the at least 18 people who died in a Taliban siege of a hotel in Afghanistan over the weekend. The Associated Press reports six Taliban militants took over the Intercontinental Hotel of Kabul overnight and killed at least 18 people, including 14 foreigners. Source
  • Mexico posts highest murder rate in decades

    World News CTV News
    MEXICO CITY - Mexico has posted its highest homicide rate in decades, with a record 29,168 murders in 2017. That is higher than the homicide rate during the peak year of Mexico's drug war in 2011, when there were 27,213 murders. Source