The starting point of analysis for the U.S.-coalition fighting force in Afghanistan in 2013 will be the withdrawal of 23,000 surge troops after this year’s fighting season, the International Security Assistance Force commander said yesterday.
“After we recover the surge, I’m going to give the President some options, with respect to the kinds of combat power that we will need in 2013,” Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen said during an interview with PBS’s Charlie Rose.
“I have to evaluate the state of the insurgency and have to look at the operational environment in 2013,” he added. “And the combination of forces ultimately will be the distinguishing dimension of the recommendation that I’ll give to the president.”
Allen emphasized there will be more than just a U.S. force presence in Afghanistan following the withdrawal of the 23,000 U.S. surge forces.
“It’s not just about 68,000 U.S. forces. There will still be 40,000 ISAF forces as well so the recommendation will also go up to the NATO chain,” he noted. “But there will also be an increasingly capable and increasingly numerous ANSF as well, so it isn’t just a recommendation about 68,000.
“I owe the president analysis of that,” the general continued, “and … my views on the courses of action of how much combat power will be needed in 2013.”
Allen said he wouldn’t speculate as to how many troops would be necessary.
“I don’t know yet exactly how much force I’m going to need among the U.S. forces in 2013,” he said. “It isn’t just a single number — it’s a composite number and that’s the key point. It’s the U.S. force as a component of ISAF and in partnership with the ANSF. That is the key issue.”
Allen noted there will be international discussion between ISAF partners about the remaining presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014.
“We’re constantly in conversation about the strategic partnership that’s coming,” he said. “We’re in conversation about the future and the role of U.S. forces today, and ISAF and NATO forces over the long term.”
Allen advised the Taliban to “listen closely” to conversations unfolding between the U.S., Afghanistan and international partners.
“First of all, in the Bonn Two Conference recently, there was a very clear determination by the international community to support Afghanistan well beyond the concept of transition which ends at the end of 2014,” he said.
“It means that the international community is interested in creating stability in Afghanistan and supporting Afghanistan with development and that process is beginning to unfold,” Allen said, adding that during a Chicago conference in May, the heads of state of ISAF nations will discuss a long-term security relationship with Afghanistan.
Allen said the idea is to support Afghanistan in a security mode for a period of time beyond 2014. It would be “faulty assumption,” he said, for the Taliban to believe December 31, 2014, was the end of the international presence in Afghanistan.
“There will be an international presence in Afghanistan for a very long time,” Allen said, noting there will be government, diplomatic and economic relationships.
“But there will also be, very importantly, a security relationship between the United States and Afghanistan [and] the broader international community as well,” the general said.
Allen reaffirmed his commitment to accomplishing President Barack Obama’s goals in Afghanistan and he noted that the timeline for withdraw was not a hindrance.
“I believe we can achieve this mission,” he said. “The campaign as it is unfolding, the campaign as we have developed it, and as it is being resourced right now, is a campaign which I believe can accomplish this mission based on the concept of Lisbon-based transition. And, in the aftermath of that, an enduring presence.
“And that international force will be there to continue the development of the Afghan National Security Forces,” Allen added.