Former top U.S. commander in Afghanistan cautions against 'zero option'
July 19th, 2013
10:27 PM ET

Former top U.S. commander in Afghanistan cautions against 'zero option'

By CNN's Elise Labott and Shirley Henry

Editor's note: This is one in a series of stories and opinion pieces surrounding the Aspen Security Forum currently taking place in Aspen, Colorado. Security Clearance is a media sponsor of the event, which is taking place from July 17 to 20 in Aspen, Colorado.

The former commander of U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan, retired Gen. John Allen, cautioned Friday against leaving no U.S. troops in Afghanistan after 2014.

Speaking Friday at the Aspen Security Forum, Allen said that although the Afghan army has made great gains, Afghan leaders realize its forces are not fully trained and need a U.S. presence beyond next year.

"I've got a good bit of experience with senior Afghan leaders, and I can tell you almost to a person, they desperately want our presence after this war," he said. "They don't want us in large numbers, but they want us there in enough numbers to help to continue to develop the ANSF (Afghan National Security Forces)."

Allen, who retired in April, said he was never asked to evaluate a "zero option" - leaving no U.S. troops behind after 2014 - but added that if that option is in play now, it's "largely out of exasperation with the rhetoric coming out of the palace," referring to the strained U.S relationship with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Senior U.S. officials have said recently that President Barack Obama was considering the zero option. Until now, U.S. and Afghan officials had been discussing plans to keep a small force behind to fight insurgents and train Afghan security personnel, but the precise size of that force has yet to be determined.

Karzai has said he would like for U.S. troops to remain after the end of the NATO mission. But he also has been highly critical of those troops over the years, following incidents in which U.S. forces have killed civilians.

The relationship between Obama and Karzai further soured last month after the United States and the Taliban planned peace talks. In response, Karzai cut off negotiations with the United States on the residual troop presence post-2014.
If the United States pulls out all its troops, it will be a situation similar to what occurred in Iraq.

The refusal by the Iraqi government to extend legal protections for U.S. troops after the end of the war in Iraq was a major reason the United States left the country with no residual military training force.

Speaking at the Aspen forum Friday, Ambassador Paul Bremmer, the former head of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, said that pulling all U.S. troops out of Iraq at the end of 2011 was a "mistake" and warned against pulling out of Afghanistan too soon.

Former Ambassador to Pakistan Husain Haqqani told the audience that talk of a zero option sends the wrong signal to the Taliban that they can eventually regain power in Afghanistan.

"There is a perception around the world that Americans don't lose wars, they lose interest," Haqqani said. "Telling them the date of when you are leaving tells them how long they have to wait."

soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. In home personal training

    'm glad to hear that the Afghan army has made great gains. But we can't have another Vietnam. We were told that the South Vietnamese could fight and we all know how that turned out. There's a reason why we have been in Afghanistan for so long. Changing a cultures mindset takes a long
    time.

    April 2, 2014 at 8:06 am | Reply
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    September 17, 2013 at 11:45 am | Reply
  3. Pete

    What's Halliburton and others to especially the MIC when we pull out..Over 100,000 vendors for less than half that of soldiers and still hiring I was told by reliable sources and what of them when its over can't shelve thousands of workers can you!!Halliburton has been given too much authority in Afghanistan,Iraq with its open ended ,no bid contracts given by Bush,Cheney and let go wild until there's no turning back is there!!All this senseless war created by lies has done is make Cheney and others rich at our kids expense killing thousands again for no reason..Soldiers on these sites tell me what you went to war for and what did you get in return and I can say before you that you went to fight for nothing but lies by Uncle Sam and got crapped on in return and don't tell me it was for their countrys freedom or democracy because those people would've been fine if we never went there and you soldiers know I'm right!!Just look in the mirror and ask yourself if you did the right thing going over there in Iraq,Afghanistan and most of you will say nope!!

    July 22, 2013 at 8:46 am | Reply
    • Arnold

      @Pete - Why don't you Pakistanis pull out your terrorists from Afghanistan first? Instead of pointing fingers at others, do the right thing first. Muslim terrorists!

      July 22, 2013 at 5:36 pm | Reply
  4. Maha

    Communism was powerful new ideology then and the U.S was facing countries supported by the Communist bloc superpowers of Soviet Russia and China. Eisenhower ended the Korean Conflict and the South Korean state survived and is thriving.

    July 21, 2013 at 7:46 pm | Reply
  5. SolarMoon

    All the military nits wits have had years to get their act together while a rag tag bunch of guerillas has stymied the world's only superpower. The locals have no interest in winning. Time to get out.

    July 21, 2013 at 3:27 pm | Reply
  6. Culminator

    We need to get the hell out of Afghanistan now. You cannot force democracy on a nation who are used to being lead around like sheep for centuries. Change and the need and want for change has to come from within. It will take a good two generations to turn things around. What the West can do is offer scholarships to young people from Afghanistan, but once their studies are over, mandate that they return to their country and work on making it a better place.

    July 21, 2013 at 1:04 pm | Reply
  7. Edward Sontag Kaiser

    America is rejuvenated with Obama's guidance and our giant economy. We will never be pushed around as the sole superpower. There is no question we must keep our presence in Afghanistan to protect our investment in the future.
    We can not let the Pakistanis and their Taliban terrorists squander our capital, but instead we will ride them like donkeys into the sunset for the next 100 years to secure peace and democracy and to honor forever those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our sake.

    July 20, 2013 at 8:35 am | Reply
    • USMC1371

      What planet are you on?

      July 20, 2013 at 10:45 pm | Reply
    • George patton

      Good grief Edward Sontag Kaiser, you sound like another hateful, ignorant, hillbilly Tea Partier from the South. Did you get through the 5th grade in school? You don't sound like it from your post above or are you just trying to be funny? Which is it?

      July 20, 2013 at 11:33 pm | Reply
    • George patton

      On the other hand, you wouldn't be Phunnie boy posting under the name of Edward Sontag Kaiser, would you? Since your post above was so dumb, it certainly appears that way unless you were trying to be funny!!!

      July 21, 2013 at 11:24 am | Reply
    • Maha

      You're being sarcastic because you still think you are superior.I gather you are against President Obama, and want to pull out of Afghanistan because you Don't believe a dogged persistence in fighting them is the answer. Oh and you think jingoistic rhetoric about the military or the country is stupid.

      July 21, 2013 at 7:30 pm | Reply
  8. StanCalif

    Karsai is no "friend" of the USA! He is a drug dealing criminal out to enrich himself and his relatives. He has shown NO compassion for his own people! US aid sent to help "the people" only gets diverted into Karsai's pockets.
    We, the USA, must get out of this stupid situation and let Karsai deal with the consequences.

    July 20, 2013 at 8:16 am | Reply
    • Arnold

      Karzai may not be the best friend. However, Karzai is not a traitor. He is not the one who hid Bin Laden.

      July 20, 2013 at 8:42 am | Reply
      • Pete

        @Arnold,you're delushional if you didn't think Karzi knew in which he did as well as GW Bush as well...Both were friends of BinLaden like it or not!!!

        July 20, 2013 at 12:12 pm |
      • Arnold

        Gotta go by the facts. Can't ignore the evidence that Bin Laden was protected by Pakistanis for a decade, not Karzai. Zero option in Afghanistan can be trusted to work, but not for Pakistan. Can't trust the Pakistanis. They need to be monitored and disciplined continuously.

        July 20, 2013 at 2:56 pm |
  9. USMC1371

    Their are a few security firms that can handle training the afgan security force. They can buy the best training available. No need in any way shape or form for U.S. troops to stay.

    July 20, 2013 at 5:23 am | Reply
    • Windtalker

      Your correct on that.

      July 20, 2013 at 6:33 am | Reply
      • SolarMoon

        You are or you're.

        July 21, 2013 at 3:30 pm |
    • George patton

      If the Afghans truly wanted to beat the Taliban, USMC1371, they'd do it themselves. The Afghan security forces have to be paid big time as they are now to fight whereas the Taliban are fighting for their religion. This situation is quite similar that of South Vietnam with it's pseud-democracy in the 1960's and 70's!

      July 20, 2013 at 8:13 am | Reply
      • Pete

        @George Patton,it was us with Gen. Eisenhower intervening in Frances business in Vietnam in the 50s because they were getting their asses handed to them by N Vietnamese gorilla on French owned plantations in other facilities French owned in S.Vietnam...Eisenhower was running for reelection against Adalai Stevenson and with us showing ourselves as true worldly warriors Eisenhower was elected by a large margain because back then all citizens were psychologically up after WWII,Korean war both showing the world our military superiority over our communist foes that Eisenhower railed against !!Eisenhower too was the president who was the architect behind our building nuclear weapons inmass as well during his presidency,remember republicans Eisenhower warned us against ourselves didn't he!!

        July 20, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
      • George patton

        Don't forget Pete, that as the French Indochina War was still raging on in February, 1954 both Vice President Richard Nixon and Sec. of State John Foster Dulles wanted us to jump in there on the side of the French but on Feb. 10, Pres. Dwight Eisenhower both wisely and rightfully said no to that. Also remember that later on July 19, Sec. of State John Foster Dulles refused to shake hands with Chinese Foreign Minister Chou En-Lai at the Geneva Conference which ended that war, showing that this bozo felt nothing but utter contempt for the Chinese!!!

        July 20, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
      • Pete

        @GeorgePatton,Eisenhower did in fact send 900 soldiers there initially back in the early 50 s as intervension for the supervision and overseeing of French investments over in S.Vietnam..It wasn't till the Gulf Of Tonkin incident with N Vietnamese torpedo boats attacking an American battleship that we went into war mode!!Most here blame Pres.Kennedy for starting the Vietnamese war but facts point to Eisenhower because it was his job but he was at one point running for president against Stevenson and it helped his campaign back then helping America look superior in the military category!!Remember it was Eisenhower who pushed for nuclear superiority worldwide building nuclear weapons in mass during his initial presidencial term to become the worlds first super power!!

        July 22, 2013 at 3:54 pm |

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