The post-2014 view from Helmand
April 24th, 2012
02:09 AM ET

The post-2014 view from Helmand

By Mike Mount

While a new deal with Afghanistan starts to spell out the U.S. presence after the bulk of troops leave in 2014, a top U.S. general said he has a good idea of what skills will be needed to ensure the country remains stable.

"I think there are some areas that the Afghans will not be able to build capability over the next two years and so they are going to need our support," said Marine Maj. Gen. John A. Toolan, who just returned from commanding NATO forces in southern Afghanistan for the past year.

Toolan is in Washington to promote his efforts during his command in Helmand Province, a large but remote section of Afghanistan squeezed between Iran to the west and Pakistan to the south and poppy fields in between.

Toolan highlighted specific areas where the Afghan security forces will need the most help, at least in his former area of command, which also gave some insight into what adviser roles the U.S. military could play upon the departure of combat forces.

Where do Afghan forces need the most work? According to Toolan, the United States will have to focus on improving roles in intelligence, combat medicine, special operations, artillery and criminal investigation in the Afghan police forces.

"As the conventional forces leave, special operations forces will continue to be required because their (Afghan military) special operations capabilities are going to take a little bit more time to nurture and mature," according to Toolan.

While Toolan said he was pleased with the Afghan military's human intelligence capability, he said they still need the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets only the U.S. military has.

"The Afghans know we have that and they want to have access, so I think we are going to have to provide that for a while past 2014," Toolan said.

While there is little argument some U.S. forces will remain in a post-war Afghanistan as military advisers, both U.S. and Afghan officials have yet to decide on how many and how long troops will continue supporting the Afghan military.

"As the president said, we're committed to an enduring presence and this agreement makes clear that we will have that presence there beyond 2014," Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said Monday while traveling in South America.

"Any post-2014 U.S. troop presence will be at the invitation of the Afghan government and would ensure that we are able to target terrorists and support a sovereign Afghan government. We envision a significantly smaller, sustainable presence to continue to advise and assist Afghan forces and take on critical counterterrorism missions," said Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. John Kirby.

The framework to a final strategic partnership was agreed upon Sunday by the United States and Afghanistan. While it has not been released publicly, it outlines what the relationship between the United States and Afghanistan will look like, including economic and military assistance as well as the diplomatic relationships, according to a U.S. official.

The official said it is a basic outline and does not contain troop numbers or the amount of monetary support the United States will offer the Afghans in the future.

"That really remains to be worked out, obviously with our NATO allies and with the Afghan government to determine what the nature and the size of that presence will be beyond 2014," Panetta said.

The U.S. and Afghan governments will now use the outline to fill out the full strategic partnership and hope to have a final agreement ready in time for the NATO meeting in Chicago that will focus on the future of Afghanistan. But Panetta thinks it could take longer.

"I suspect that will continue beyond Chicago," he said.

The current target for the Afghan force is around 352,000 army and police. After 2014 that number is expected to dip to about 250,000, with a price of $4.1 billion a year. Discussions now are ongoing about how to pay for the upkeep. The United States doesn't want to pay the whole amount and U.S. officials say Washington will be asking European and other International Security Assistance Force allies to pay about $1.3 billion of the bill.

While the numbers of troops and costs remain unclear, some analysts see the partnership as "ensuring Afghanistan remains reliant on the Untied States for basic funding and security long into the future," and think a partnership is not a good idea.

"The Afghan government only collects about $2 billion a year in revenue. This does not put Afghanistan on a path to sustainable self-sufficiency, but makes it increasingly dependent on foreign patronage," according to Malou Innocent, an analyst for CATO Institute.

"With this pact, policymakers are pushing for an open-ended nation-building mission by another name," according to Innocent.

But Pentagon officials maintain no final decisions have been made about the ultimate end strength of Afghan National Security Forces.

"It would be premature to speculate about what the costs might be or how those costs are borne. The Defense Department remains committed to a strategic relationship with our Afghan partners and to continuing to improve their security capabilities," Kirby said.

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Military
soundoff (42 Responses)
  1. George

    We have bases all over the world, why the big push to leave Afghanistan? It's positioned very strategically vis a vis Iran and Pakistan and terrorist strongholds and is an ideal location for a big base. If we leave without ensuring a stable and secure gov't, then in a few years we'll most likely have to go back in and do it all over again, something we can't afford. Iraq was a criminal act, but I totally support our efforts in Afghanistan. And I think most Afghans do, too.

    April 25, 2012 at 8:16 am | Reply
    • stan

      Amen, brother. You are a voice of reason in a shrill circle of partisan reason. On a sad note, as a reasonable man you have no future in politics.

      April 25, 2012 at 9:18 am | Reply
    • jezail.org

      Please allow me to answer your question "why the big push to leave Afghanistan?". For one thing you have answered your own question in part. We do have bases all over the world. We don't need Afghan bases. But far more importantly, the cost of this "base" at the moment is something like 1 billion/week. Do any other bases come close to this cost? If they do, I would be pushing to close them as well.

      The logic of having bases in a country because there are "terrorists" there invites US bases in many more places as well. Should we have a base in Yemen? How about Somalia? At what cost? Please don't ask me, a tax payer to underwrite this stuff. I have a family to support. I might also ask if current US economic woes escape your notice? I am also an Afghan "veteran" who carried a rifle as a volunteer to fight Soviets and I know how unrealistic present US policy assumptions are. The General in the above article talks about standing up an army of some 350,000 Afghans for a maybe 4 or five billion dollars. That's barely enough money to stand up the Afghan resistance of the 1980's and certainly not enough to maintain a counter insurgent force with aircraft, radar installations etc. That's before any of the additional dreams get paid for like schools, clinics, infrastructure, etc. They always follow regardless of your or my opinions.

      I'm done with this BS. If you care so much about Afghanistan, please have the decency of doing what I did, get on a plane to go over there, get yourself one of the abundant AK's there and fight for what you believe in. Keep your hands out of my pockets please.

      April 26, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Reply
  2. mmi16

    So long as Afgahnistan stays rooted in their corrupt retarded tribal culture they will never be a country that can take it's place amongst the other countries of the world...for all their supposed individual courage they are a region of political cowards who, collectively, will never amount to more than a lanceable boil on the worlds ass.

    April 25, 2012 at 3:47 am | Reply
  3. Mike H

    It's time to admit defeat, apologize to the people of Afghanistan, and raise taxes to pay for the failed wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Hopefully Americans will learn something from this humbling, expensive mistake, but nothing was learned after Vietnam so I am not optimistic.

    April 24, 2012 at 9:40 pm | Reply
    • NoMoreObama

      Huh?

      The Afghan and Iraq wars were clear victories for the US. They accomplished their goals in their entireties. The big problem has been that the Iraq and now the Afghan govt's have enjoyed to free ride to freedom we have given them.

      They should be bowing in our general direction for saving them.

      That being said. Once a war has been won, you get the heck out and save the money for the next "problem child" country.

      April 25, 2012 at 2:33 am | Reply
      • Trevor

        We did what we initially set out to do and that was to root out al Qaeda and kill or capture them and destroy their terrorist training camps and networks...we've done that in Afghanistan...Pakistan is an entirely different matter.

        So Mike, we didn't "fail" in Afghanistan in that aspect.

        The problem is is that we didn't want to have to come back again and thought as a 2nd phase that we would help build a stable government with sufficient security so we wouldn't. Unfortunately, not enough of the Afghan population is willing to commit to a stable "government"...33% want it, 33% want to take it back to 12th century tribal governance and 33% don' t care one way or the other (similar to the South Vietnamese).

        So Mike, the first 33% we don't have to "apologize" to...they are thankful for the progress we've helped them in the areas of education and public services. The 2nd 33%...do you really "care" to apologize?...a 33% that abuse women, utilize children as sex slaves and kill both on a daily basis with no remorse for their own "purposes"? Probably the last 33%, we should not only apologize, but should be kicking ourselves with the inadequate resources we've committed to letting them know "why" we are here...this which is unfortunate because they really don't know why we are here due to a lack of communication and education and only know that a foreign force in their country again, just like the Soviet were.

        So NoMoreObama, yes there was a clear victory in the 1st phase as stated, the 2nd phase...not so much. We're still conducting COIN in Afghanistan and we can't kil outright kill ALL the 2nd 33% mentioned (it will take that to defeat them), and the last 33% is probably an undertaking that will take FAR MORE time than the American people are willing to put up with.

        April 25, 2012 at 7:23 am |
  4. IknowFirstHand

    Yes, it IS about fear. DUH! The illegals aren't supposed to feel like home here! Anybody who breaks the law should feeld some kind of fear of prosecution... otherwise, they'll do it again! I came LEGALLY and I am livid about the Democrats trying to push amnesty through. HELL NO! What a slap into the face to people who WORKED hard to qualify for a visa... but that the Dems don't give a s h i ti about...

    April 24, 2012 at 4:55 pm | Reply
    • yahmez the mad

      There is a link that, in error, leads to this article. That your comment is about the link title proves you did not read this article. That your user name proclaims intimate knowledge, further exposes that you are an ID10T.

      April 24, 2012 at 11:53 pm | Reply
  5. brown

    Americans ... keep on re-electing your incompetent Congress. Your elected "leaders" are doing more harm to your America than any foreign power could ever do.!

    April 24, 2012 at 3:00 pm | Reply
  6. Vanessa beltgens

    hereby the link: http://vanessabeltgens.wordpress.com/v-about-war/

    April 24, 2012 at 12:56 pm | Reply
  7. Vanessa beltgens

    In between the politics, take a moment to stand still, for the people,.. . in this case.. . our soldiers.
    http://vanessabeltgens.wordpress.com/v-about-war/

    April 24, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Reply
  8. DSBsky

    "I think there are some areas that the Afghans will not be able to build capability over the next two years and so they are going to need our support," said Marine Maj. Gen. John A. Toolan..

    Ok now ask me if I care what you think? I don't. Get our troops home and save OUR COUNTRY!! get it!!! good..

    April 24, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Reply
    • svs

      its not that easy to just bring them home. this is a case that needs to be left with those who are in a higher responsibility of authority and are spending every day deciding on what move to make with less or higher risk of loss. be smart about what you say. Also please dont challenge me ive been there done that I want to go back. Just realize this takes time.

      April 24, 2012 at 1:57 pm | Reply
      • jezail.org

        Are you kidding? "Those who are in a higher responsibility of authority" are the same people who got us in there in the first place. They spew out volumes of BS just like this general. Even a casual glance at the numbers and assumptions reveals how out of touch with reality these people are. It's all inner beltway BS. "Those who are in a higher responsibility of authority" are exactly the people who I trust least to get us out of there.

        The Soviets tried for years to find a diplomatic solution to their invasion. In the end, there was none and they just left. Yes, we can just leave.

        April 26, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
  9. The Boodah

    This is the beginning of the New World Order.... The USA is trying to obtain Power by controlling the World..... Were going to Reap all there Resources than invade another country..... im ashamed to be an american.... This is SICK !...... Food for thought.... Operation Norwood

    April 24, 2012 at 11:51 am | Reply
    • LB Colorado

      Sick of this country, we actually let you leave. However, other countries will probably not let you in.

      April 24, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Reply
    • Collin

      You conspiracy theorists don't quit, do you?

      April 24, 2012 at 1:28 pm | Reply
    • svs

      come back and say somthing with a little more factual evidence to back up the unpopular idea that you see is a sure stupid remark.

      April 24, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Reply
    • Spence

      Ya know you can leave, no one is actually making you stay here. Obtain a passport and have fun in another country

      April 24, 2012 at 6:05 pm | Reply
    • ResponderOne

      Anyone with a fifth-grade education know that Afghanistan doesn't have any resources.

      I'm ashamed you're an American, too.

      April 24, 2012 at 6:12 pm | Reply
    • AFRAMEHUNTER

      You should move to Afganistan as I am also sad you are an American. #SupportyourTroopsorGETOT

      April 24, 2012 at 7:08 pm | Reply
    • Eric

      If your ashamed your not an AMERICAN. Get the hell out.

      April 25, 2012 at 6:54 am | Reply
  10. duh

    If war-profiteering were stopped, this would all come to an end. Eisenhower had warned about this.

    April 24, 2012 at 10:20 am | Reply
    • OregonTom

      Eisenhower's speech was chilling prediction.

      April 24, 2012 at 11:27 am | Reply
    • Spence

      Eisenhower was a great man and apparently had the ability to see the future

      April 24, 2012 at 6:06 pm | Reply
  11. Make Love Not War

    What's up with this post 2014 stability talk? Don't be such a Republican. Let's quit and run for the door, like Vietnam and Iraq. If we can deal with the conservatively estimated 3 million killed in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia as the Khmer Rouge tide rolled in behind our Vietnam retreat, surely we can deal with the Taliban subjugation of ethnic Hazaras, Uzbeks, Tajiks, and publicly stoning women for going out of the house unescorted.

    April 24, 2012 at 10:18 am | Reply
    • svs

      it was not even close to a million or are talking about the red cong on the otherside?

      April 24, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Reply
  12. desert voice (troubledgoodangel or Nathanael or Bohdan or Voiceinthedesert)

    Did anyone check out if Afghanistan does not sit on rare earth metals? It appears to have the right geology for that ... given all the metal that has sunken into the earth from countless wars. Just jocking but with a serious mind.

    April 24, 2012 at 10:17 am | Reply
  13. someone in afghanistan...again.

    gimme, gimme, gimme. how bout we take the 3.9 billion the US is willing to give to afghanistan and use it for an american cause? like social security, public schools, university scholarships, medicare, orphanages, job advising for the homeless, rehab centers, ect...all that money will be wasted when the troops leave and afghan forces drop their weapons or hand them over to the taliban. where is this money coming from anyway? the last thing the american people need is more taxes and higher gas prices ( you gotta drive to work to make money to be taxed). let the afghans pay for their own stuff, and if they collapse, so be it, my grandson will beat some ass if need be in the future. bin laden is dead and the remaining terrorists are quickly following so why keep funding a nation of liars and beggers?

    April 24, 2012 at 10:15 am | Reply
    • LB Colorado

      Ditto.

      April 24, 2012 at 1:17 pm | Reply
  14. desert voice (troubledgoodangel or Nathanael or Bohdan or Voiceinthedesert)

    Dril, baby, drill ... for oil and for shale coal! Afghanistan needs to quintuple its 2 billion budget! I have read that billions are being siphoned each year out of Afghanistan. Track them down and return them! Is not Mr. Panetta an expert on how to track money down. Just do it, for the sake of Afghanistan!

    April 24, 2012 at 10:14 am | Reply
    • svs

      there are no Substantial natural resources in AFG besides lithium thats pretty much it.

      April 24, 2012 at 2:11 pm | Reply
      • Bob Brown

        Batteries.

        April 24, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
      • jezail.org

        Hello: this is from a news report, one of many in 2010:
        Afghanistan, often dismissed in the West as an impoverished and failed state, is sitting on $1 trillion of untapped minerals, according to new calculations from surveys conducted jointly by the Pentagon and the US Geological Survey.

        The sheer size of the deposits – including copper, gold, iron and cobalt as well as vast amounts of lithium, a key component in batteries of Western lifestyle staples such as laptops and BlackBerrys – holds out the possibility that Afghanistan, ravaged by decades of conflict, might become one of the most important and lucrative centres of mining in the world.

        April 26, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
  15. Chris

    As a current military veteran, I'm starting to feel this war has gone on long enough. Investing money in the Afghan miilitary force is dumping money better spent at home. The taliban will retake the area when we leave and we will still be paying for the tab.

    April 24, 2012 at 9:57 am | Reply
    • svs

      I agree

      April 24, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Reply

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