10,000 may not be magic number for U.S. troops in Afghanistan
WASHINGTON — The number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan may drop well below 10,000 — the minimum demanded by the military to train Afghan forces — as the longest war in American history winds down, Obama administration officials briefed on the matter said.
Since Afghanistan's general election on April 5,White House, State Department and Pentagon officials have resumed discussions on how many American troops should remain when the U.S.-led coalition ends its mission this year.
The decision to consider a small force, possibly fewer than 5,000 troops, reflects a belief among White House officials that Afghan security forces have evolved into a robust enough force to contain a still-potent Taliban-led insurgency. The small force that would remain could focus on counter-terrorism or training operations.
That belief, the officials say, is based partly on Afghanistan's surprisingly smooth election, which has won international praise for its high turnout, estimated at 60 percent of 12 million eligible votes, and the failure of Taliban militants to stage high-profile attacks that day.
The Obama administration has been looking at options for a possible residual force for months.
“The discussion is very much alive,” said one U.S. official who asked not to be identified. “They're looking for additional options under 10,000” troops.
About 33,000 American troops are in Afghanistan, down from 100,000 in 2011, when troop numbers peaked a decade into a conflict originally intended to deny al-Qaida sanctuary in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
With British and other foreign troops scheduled to depart in lockstep with U.S. soldiers, the size of any residual force could add fuel to a debate in Washington over whether Taliban-led violence will intensify amid the vacuum left by Western forces, as some U.S. military officials expect.
Military leaders, including American Gen. Joe Dunford, who heads U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, has identified 10,000 soldiers as the minimum needed to help train and advise Afghan forces fighting the insurgency, arguing a smaller force would struggle to protect itself.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Experts: Convictions against police officers will be tough to win in Baltimore case
- White House mum on hack of computer system by Russia last fall
- Researchers find new, elusive bird species
- New York City officer critically shot; hunt under way for suspects
- Shellfish farmers’ planned use of pesticide under fire
- Rift invites talk of Florida split
- Severe storm with tornado roars into north Texas
- Storm knocks out power to New Orleans airport for hours
- Utah outpost stands in for Mars
- Federal judge who blocked Obama immigration order painted as unbiased
- Lessons sought from 2001 Cincinnati riots over 15 slayings