Senators irked by lack of details about Afghanistan withdrawal
WASHINGTON — Facing sharp criticism from a Senate panel, a senior Obama administration official expressed optimism on Thursday that the United States will reach an agreement with the Afghan government allowing American troops to remain in the country beyond 2014.
James Dobbins, the special U.S. representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, said President Obama is mulling a range of options for the size of the military presence at the end of next year. But Dobbins told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that as the Afghans build their country, they won't stand alone.
“We've made significant progress on the text of a new bilateral security agreement,” Dobbins said. “Of course, without an agreement on our presence in Afghanistan, we would not remain. But we do not believe that that's the likely outcome of these negotiations.”
But Democrats and Republicans on the committee voiced frustration over the shortage of detail on troop levels. With Afghans slated to elect a president in the spring, it is key to let them know they won't be abandoned by the United States as the Taliban claims, said Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., the committee chairman.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has to decide if he is willing to accept a longer-term troop presence by negotiating an agreement with acceptable terms, he said.
“For our part, I believe that President Obama should signal to the Afghans and our allies what the post-2014 U.S. troop presence will look like governed by a security agreement,” Menendez said. “The lack of clarity on this point has led to too much hedging in the region.”
Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., the panel's top Republican, said the uncertainty over the troop levels is “almost embarrassing” and is undermining the American effort in Afghanistan.
“This administration ... has tremendous difficulty making decisions,” Corker said. “I think the administration has got to quit looking at its navel and make a decision on what the force structure is going to be in Afghanistan.”
The United States and its allies in Afghanistan last month formally handed over control of the country's security to the Afghan army and police. The handover paved the way for the departure of coalition forces — numbering about 100,000 troops from 48 countries, including 66,000 Americans. By the end of the year, the NATO force will be halved. At the end of 2014, all combat troops will have left and will be replaced, if approved by the Afghan government, by a much smaller force that will only train and advise the Afghans.
Although Obama remains undecided on how many troops will remain in Afghanistan along with NATO forces, it is thought that it would be about 9,000 U.S. troops and about 6,000 from its allies.
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.
- Upcoming speech to Congress stirs backlash in Israel
- Ukraine peace talks collapse
- Iraqi libraries ransacked
- Islamic State admits defeat in Syria
- Thousands of troops to fight Boko Haram terrorists in Nigeria, African Union says
- Mexico slashes public spending amid global oil price plunge
- Russian President Putin’s daughter has hand in development of $1.6B science center
- Japan stunned by video claiming death of 1 of 2 Islamic State hostages
- Leaders mark Auschwitz liberation 70 years on without Putin
- ISIS affiliate claims hotel bombing in Libya that killed 10, including American
- Jordan agrees to ISIS swap, releasing suicide bomber to get pilot back