According to a senior US diplomat, speaking on conditions of anonymity, President Obama may not commit to reduce US troops in Afghanistan before next month’s Warsaw NATO summit. There are nearly 9800 US troops in Afghanistan today. For a long time, there have been rumors that these troops would be reduced to 5500 before the NATO summit in Warsaw, which will be held between July 8 and 9th.
US force commanders in Afghanistan have already said that pulling back troops from Afghanistan now will be a mistake. It may prompt other NATO allies to scale down their presence, demoralize the Afghan forces and give a boost to the Taliban. The Taliban are waiting for the US to reduce its troop deployment so that they can scale up attacks on Afghan assets and national security forces.
Afghanistan will be high on agenda at Warsaw meet
US Secretary of Defense Aston Carter flew to Brussels to meet his NATO counterparts on Monday. Afghanistan’s future will surely be on the agenda.
The decision to keep US troops in for longer will bring cheers to beleaguered Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s government which is already battling a Taliban resurgence. The diplomat said they were pleasantly surprised that NATO allies were not thinking about reducing troops in Afghanistan. Some of them are even considering increasing their presence there. But the diplomat also noted that the decision (to reduce US troops or not) does not have to happen by Warsaw.
US armed forces in Afghanistan get new commander
The US has a new commander in Afghanistan now- General John Nicholson. The first thing he did when he took on the job was conduct an in-depth security review of the security situation on the ground. The White House has not yet received his recommendations.
Those recommendations will also affect any decisions that White House eventually takes on troop strength in Afghanistan. Former US envoys to Afghanistan have also asked President Obama to keep the strength in Afghanistan at 10,000, an advice also reiterated by many of Gen. Nicholson’s predecessors.
In 2014, President Obama had promised to reduce the count of US troops in Afghanistan to 5000 by the end of 2015 but that hasn’t happened. The delay was probably prompted by the security situation on the ground. There are many conditions at play here and the President Obama will have to weight them all before he takes any decision.