Afghan presence remains uncertain
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration has ordered significant cutbacks in initial plans for a robust U.S. civilian presence in Afghanistan after its combat troops withdraw two years from now, according to officials.
Learning from Iraq, where postwar ambitions proved unsustainable, the White House and top State Department officials are confronting whether the United States needs — and can protect — a large diplomatic compound in Kabul, four consulates around the country and other civilian outposts to oversee aid projects and monitor Afghanistan's political pulse.
Planners were recently told to reduce personnel proposals by at least 20 percent, a senior administration official said. Projects once considered crucial are being divided into lists of those considered sustainable and those that will not be continued.
“As we saw in the Iraq exercise, you need to be very tough on the numbers going in,” the official said. “We need to have enough civilians to achieve the goals we've laid out,” within “a finite amount of money we have to spend.”
Officials declined to specify specific projects that might end. But the inevitable decrease in eyes and ears across Afghanistan could threaten a range of long-term U.S. investments and priorities, such as women's rights, education, health care and infrastructure.
The challenge of balancing the American civilian presence of what are now about 1,000 officials and thousands of contractors with reasonable resources goes beyond pocketbook and personnel issues, according to several senior officials, who discussed the planning on condition of anonymity because it is at an early stage.
On one side of the simmering internal debate are fiscal constraints, diminished hopes for progress and national weariness with the Afghanistan effort. On the other side are formal U.S. pledges of development support, moral and political commitments to a country where nearly 2,200 U.S. troops have died and $590 billion has been spent, and fears Afghanistan could again become a terrorist haven.
Hanging over the debate is the determination to avoid a repeat of the September attack on a poorly defended U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, that killed a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.
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.
- Pope Francis visits mosque in war-torn Central African Republic, calls for end to conflict
- World leaders show willingness to act at climate change summit
- After U.S. indictments, Chinese military scalesc back hacks on American industry
- Burned-out van belonged to missing Australians, Mexican prosecutors say
- Northern Ireland’s restrictive abortion law ‘breaches human rights,’ court rules
- Israeli court convicts two Jewish teenagers in 2014 killing of Palestinian youth
- Boko Haram destroys Nigerian military base; 107 troops MIA
- Obama: Climate pact an ‘act of defiance’ after Paris attacks
- Senators call for 20,000 more troops in Syria and Iraq
- Moscow deploys ground-to-air missiles in Syria
- In Paris, nations, investors to pledge billions for climate change research