Pentagon weighs Afghanistan troop options after 2014
November 26th, 2012
05:00 PM ET

Pentagon weighs Afghanistan troop options after 2014

By Chris Lawrence

Pentagon officials are considering a preliminary assessment by Gen. John Allen, commander of NATO's International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, on "what he needs going forward" in the country as the U.S. looks to withdraw all combat troops by the end of 2014, a U.S. official tells CNN.

One of the options being considered is "to keep a force of roughly 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan post-2014," according to the official who did not want to be identified discussing ongoing deliberations. The official said that force would comprise a small number of special operations forces dedicated to counterterrorism missions, while the remaining troops "would either continue to train and advise Afghan forces, or assist with logistical issues such as medical evacuations and air support operations."

The "10,000 option" is just one of several being examined, the official said. The options represented "different ends of the spectrum" in terms of troop levels, the official added, but the official did not provide any detail as to what those options are.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has not presented a formal recommendation to the White House, Pentagon spokesman George Little said on Monday.

"It's entirely premature to speculate on troop numbers in Afghanistan between now and the end of 2014 or beyond," he said. "In September, we completed the full withdrawal of the 33,000 surge troops, and we will soon begin considering how we move forward on further troop level adjustments, which will include planning for our post-2014 military and civilian presence in Afghanistan."

Panetta plans to speak with Allen about Afghanistan matters on Tuesday, Little said.

The ultimate decision is up to President Barack Obama, Little said.

"He receives options from our military leaders on the situation on the ground and considers the recommendations with his national security team, including [Panetta], in a consultation with the Afghan government and our international partners," he said.

Obama has not decided yet on troop levels after 2014, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday.

The U.S. official said the remaining troops "would need legal protection," a reference to any agreement that would grant troops immunity from being prosecuted under Afghan law. President Hamid Karzai has recently insisted that any remaining troops must be subject to Afghan law under certain circumstances. The potentially contentious issue was underscored by the case of Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, who is charged with 17 counts of murder in connection with a shooting massacre in an Afghan village.

But the U.S. official does not think the immunity issue will derail any potential deal, as it did in Iraq when a lack of agreement led to the U.S. pulling out all troops despite initial plans to keep several thousand there for advice and training.

"The Afghans know they really need our help," the official said. "President Karzai is strong enough to get a deal done. He is not as reticent to say 'we want a U.S. presence' as Prime Minister [Nuri al-] Maliki was in Iraq. It'll go down to the wire on immunity, but it won't be a deal-breaker."

Afghan National Security Forces officials acknowledge they will not have a viable air force until 2017 at the earliest and will need NATO airpower to sustain their missions.

A second U.S. official says the expectation going in is that "basing and money" will be two of the major issues to be worked out.

"The Afghans want to get as much money in the 'out years' as possible. Are we going to give them $6 billion a year for 20 years? Not likely. A five-year period is a safe bet, but the way appropriations work in Congress, we probably can't promise more than one year at a time in those later years," explained the second official.

The other major issue is what happens between now and the end of 2014. By May, new units are scheduled to replace up to eight Army brigade combat teams. The mission of the new "Security Force Assistance Brigades" will be primarily training and mentoring Afghan forces, not conducting combat operations. The new units are also about half the size of the brigades they will replace, reflecting the beginning of a smaller footprint in Afghanistan. They will deploy to areas in southern and eastern Afghanistan throughout the late winter and spring. These new training brigades will have their own security, transportation and logistics assets, so that they will not have to rely on other forces to conduct training.

Little said options for how to draw down troop levels in the coming year soon will be presented to the Defense Department. The president will make a decision on the pace of drawdown in the "coming weeks and months," Carney said.

The first U.S. official says there is "support" among some senior Pentagon officials to keep a majority of the 68,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan through the fighting season in 2013. But he concedes that there is no consensus on that option and that it would require "moving away from a more gradual drawdown, as we've heard in the past, and bringing a lot of troops home quickly in 2014."

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  14. Redeye Dog

    All this is moot unless our President defines what in the world he expects to accomplish with our continued presence in Afghanistan. This administration has made our mission there extremely "nebulous." Whatever they decide on troop strengths, no agreements should be made without a durable SOFA agreement in support of our service members who have already been asked to sacrifice too much for this campaign.

    November 30, 2012 at 12:23 pm | Reply
  15. gman tello

    What a story. people please support our troops.

    November 30, 2012 at 12:09 pm | Reply
  16. government cheese

    Liberals are war mongers!!

    November 27, 2012 at 2:49 am | Reply
    • Gaven

      Yeah, and "conversatives" love gays.

      November 27, 2012 at 3:36 am | Reply
    • mamadawg

      Oh no we're not!

      November 27, 2012 at 8:29 pm | Reply
  17. Joe

    We need to pull 10K troops out asap and put them on the Mexico border with tanks and all! Then get the rest the FO of this place. The US gov IRS has been bleeding small business owners like me to fund this crap its time to stop and pull the funding. We can use the money to build roads / infrastructure and rebuild our economy. It makes me sick that I pay US taxes! Game Over either take them over or again GTFO!

    November 27, 2012 at 2:23 am | Reply
  18. eric gieseke


    November 27, 2012 at 1:43 am | Reply
  19. eric gieseke

    time to get the FD*k out

    November 27, 2012 at 1:42 am | Reply
  20. Lizard Lance

    We should get all American troops out of foreign territories and bring them home. Period.

    November 27, 2012 at 12:47 am | Reply
    • mamadawg

      I agree in principle but, practically speaking, I don't think it will happen. Special Forces, Intelligence yes!
      In a more perfect world (which is light years away) I would agree with you totally.
      The only other thing that I would add is that, if you are going to keep 10,00 forces in harms way, then you had better be ready to take care of them when they come home. So far the militaries record as regards this matter is LESS than stellar.

      November 27, 2012 at 8:34 pm | Reply
  21. Whombatt

    The Viet Nam conflict has been called "The 10,000 Day War." I suspect that we will call the Afghanistan war "The War That Never Ends."

    It is long past the time to leave. No more blood and treasure.

    November 27, 2012 at 12:40 am | Reply
  22. Redeye Dog

    Pay Russia to go there and cultivate the opium industry with the locals so we can shift our attention where it should have been all along – Pakistan!

    November 27, 2012 at 12:13 am | Reply
    • Farrok

      Then how would the CIA fund its operations with out opium? With clay pots and wicker baskets?

      November 27, 2012 at 12:43 am | Reply
  23. coflyboy

    Nope. Just get outta there.

    November 26, 2012 at 11:56 pm | Reply
  24. Steve

    Didn't Obama promise we'd be out of there several years ago now? Apparently he is drone killing people every day. A bunch of goat herders who in no way can bring harm to the US.

    November 26, 2012 at 10:56 pm | Reply
    • Homer10

      Your right. The drones are eliminating the need for thousands of troops. Wars can be fought far more cheeply using drones.

      November 27, 2012 at 12:55 am | Reply
  25. David

    Just get out period, if they are in need of support make them pay for it.

    November 26, 2012 at 10:39 pm | Reply
  26. Roger

    Clearly this is bad journalism. Obama said all along, and during the debates, that the troops would leave, period. They will leave just like he closed Gitmo, bet on it.

    November 26, 2012 at 10:28 pm | Reply
    • DougNJ

      It was always stipulated 'Combat Troops' would be out by end 2014. All along there were going to be US armed forces, just not 'combat'.

      November 26, 2012 at 11:03 pm | Reply
      • Jeremy

        Doug, all troops are "combat" troops. Yes, even the support people. Remember when a certain General said that "All soldiers are an Infantryman first."

        November 26, 2012 at 11:23 pm |
      • panamavet

        I am guessing you have never been in combat. If you are deployed to a nation that is at war with itself, you are in combat. Doesn't matter if you are a "trainer". You are operating with the ANA, you are in combat. We will continue to lose our young men and women after 2014.

        November 26, 2012 at 11:53 pm |
  27. GI

    What is funny is how the media, an behalf of the WH, touts that we've withdrawn the 33,000 surge troops, but in all reality, they have put a large portion of those on bases outside of Afghanistan, so that they don't count as boots on the ground in Afghanistan. Those troops then move in and out of Afghanistan on short missions (<30 days) to accomplish the same missions as before, only without "officially" being in Afghanistan....oh the tangled web we weave....

    November 26, 2012 at 10:23 pm | Reply
    • coflyboy

      Where did you read this? I am interested in knowing more.

      November 26, 2012 at 11:58 pm | Reply
  28. g2-f7f1bfddcd2a8597d7bf81343067218b

    but we'll need to stay, right? that is where the opium is? CIA needs opium to ensure their market share lead in the world Narcotics business. believe me, we'll stay there.

    November 26, 2012 at 10:18 pm | Reply
    • TR

      Forget the CIA, as a former high paid employee in the defense industry, I can assure you that people who work for companies like Boeing and Lockheed Martin have their own best interests in mind, always at the expense of the taxpayers. And nearly all of them vote Republican.

      November 26, 2012 at 10:24 pm | Reply
      • john

        Gee. I wasn't aware that being a "highly paid" employee in the defense industry allowed you to view the individual votes cast by other Americans. Sounds to me like you have quite the high opinion of yourself. Why is it that you seem to feel the need to overcompensate for something?

        November 26, 2012 at 10:30 pm |
      • TR

        I'm a former defense industry engineer now working in energy, so yes, I do value my education and insight more than the average person. I know how the majority of defense employees vote, because I was in the industry myself for many years. Sounds like you have quite the inferiority complex.

        November 26, 2012 at 10:41 pm |
      • panamavet

        What does this have to do with the President of the United States,a Dem, being OK with keeping US troops in Afghanistan after 2014? If you will recall, he agreed to this back in May at the NATO summit in Chicago. Not sure your point adds anything to this dicussion. Or are you suggesting that President Obama is controlled by Boieng and Lockeed?

        November 26, 2012 at 11:37 pm |
  29. rad666

    I would rather they put 10,000 troops on America's border with Mexico.

    November 26, 2012 at 10:17 pm | Reply
    • Gaven


      November 27, 2012 at 3:40 am | Reply
  30. Allie's mitt....

    ...had we not ATTACKED THE WRONG COUNTRY (IRAQ), then we would be speaking of a success that we would have achieved around 2004-2005 in Afghanistan...DUBYA blew it and wrecked our foreign policy in the entire middle east !

    November 26, 2012 at 10:09 pm | Reply
    • Tom

      Carter ruined it when he turned into a pansy over the hostage crisis.

      November 26, 2012 at 10:17 pm | Reply
      • mamadawg

        What do you suggest he should have done?? Have you done any serious reading about what happened during that time? (And I don't mean newsprint. . .although they may have been better at that time than they are now. I.E. have you seen in print or heard on the news how many soldiers have been killed in the last month? how many have been wounded? But I digress. . .

        November 27, 2012 at 8:42 pm |
  31. Kings stay in the back row.....

    .....We must maintain a presence in Afghanistan; surely, we are aware that the Taliban filled the vacuum left when the old Soviet Union forces withdrew. Let us maintain a small force there – just as suggested. Also, we cannot forget the Bin Laden presence with the money, training facilities, and security – we will always have an eye on that rocky place.

    November 26, 2012 at 10:02 pm | Reply
    • EldRick

      How about if we just pull out and let these 14th-century primitives continue to rot in their miserable religulous dungeon?

      November 26, 2012 at 10:10 pm | Reply
      • TR

        How about we pull out, mind our own damn business, and spend our tax dollars here at home.

        November 26, 2012 at 10:12 pm |
      • DougNJ

        All of the infrastructure we could afford to build in Afghan-land, but NOT afford here, will not be maintained any amount of time and will fall into disrepair.

        November 26, 2012 at 11:11 pm |
      • Veritas

        TR – You really have zero clue how the modern world works. Thankfully, your opinion on this matter will forever remain that–an opinion.

        November 26, 2012 at 11:27 pm |
      • Gaven

        @Veritas: No, TR does get it. You are the clueless one that thinks America should pay billions and trillions to take care of the rest of the world. Afghanistan has *nothing* to offer the rest of the world. The people are content to live primatively all the while holding their hands out for more American money and doing nothing to earn it. I promise you, when we leave, Americans will still have gained absolutely nothing in over 11 years of enormous financial support and thousands of lost coalition lives.

        Sometimes you need to realize a bad investment and simply cut your losses. Afghanistan is one of those bad investments.

        November 27, 2012 at 3:49 am |
    • Bud

      It is pointless to stay there, the bad guys are in many Countries in the middle east and they will be in them with us there or not, we killed OBL time to go home.

      November 26, 2012 at 10:25 pm | Reply
    • Gaven

      Having just spent the last year in Kabul, I can assure you that no matter how long we leave an American presence in Afghanistan, the Taliban will be back the moment we leave. It doesn't matter if it is 2014 or 2114. America is not affected by the Taliban, so the the Afghans need to deal with their own problems once the training of their ANA and ANP is complete in 2014. It simply is not worth spending one more dollar on or losing one more coalition member's life over. Afghanistan is a lost cause that is consumed by their religion with no desire to come out of the Iron Age.

      Their religion > our intentions

      November 27, 2012 at 3:45 am | Reply
  32. Heuib

    It always amazes me to see all the people on these forums that know so much better on how to fight and win a war than the Military leadership of the US armed forces who have had many years of training and experience. How about you just keep quite on the couch and let the professionals do their jobs. If you pay attention you might even learn something.

    November 26, 2012 at 9:54 pm | Reply
    • TR

      You are truly delusional if you believe we have anything to win in Afghanistan. You're even more delusional if you believe it is in the military's best interest that we leave Afghanistan. If there is no war, then what purpose do they have? When my tax dollars are being wasted overseas, you damn well better believe I'm going to voice my opinion over it.

      November 26, 2012 at 10:06 pm | Reply
    • Bud

      Vietnam ring a bell?

      November 26, 2012 at 10:26 pm | Reply
  33. Confedkilla

    The battle with the Taliban will continue to be long and protracted. If Russia does not address their heroin problem, and can't secure it's borders (a huge borderline to secure) from Taliban drug traders we have a long ways to go. The Taliban will continue to sell and trade heroin to Russian mafia and drug cartels for weapons and money to use against U.S. soldiers.

    November 26, 2012 at 9:37 pm | Reply
  34. snowdogg

    "keep a force of roughly 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan post-2014"

    Noooooooooooooooooooooooo !!!

    November 26, 2012 at 9:33 pm | Reply
  35. gregingso

    If I was in the pentagon I would demand that all the troops come home unless the American People, as a whole, decide they want to share in the sacrifice of this war by paying a little more in taxes. NOT JUST the rich, but all of us who still have our arms and legs ( as well as our lives) who are able to should be willing to see their taxes go up, at least to the levels they were at before we went to war. If we are going to continue to fight these wars as a United People, willingly sharing in the sacrifice our soldiers are making, then keep whatever level of troops are needed to accomplish the mission. If we are going to continue to fight these wars like we have been, sitting at home on our couches while our military gives life and limb to secure our freedom, then please bring these heroes home now so no more of them need to die in vain. We cannot win this war with our military alone, the enemy we are fighting understands that and they are laughing at how easy we are making it for them to prevail against us.

    November 26, 2012 at 8:48 pm | Reply
    • intolerant

      Well said "gregingso"

      November 26, 2012 at 9:12 pm | Reply
  36. Michael Moore

    Leave entirely in 2014-that entire country is not worth one more dead American Soldier.

    November 26, 2012 at 8:26 pm | Reply
    • Gaven

      ...or one more American tax dollar.

      November 27, 2012 at 3:51 am | Reply
  37. Say what you mean, mean what you say.

    Keeping troops there after 2014 isn't withdrawing with all due respect. Why do we need troops there even now? I'm not all that frightened of a third world country, good intelligence is a better idea. Do the world a favor: set fire to those poppy fields and just leave for the love of all that's good. It's time to get our financial houses in order.

    November 26, 2012 at 7:57 pm | Reply
  38. Vigilantgt

    What a bunch of morons in the Pentagon.

    November 26, 2012 at 7:47 pm | Reply
    • panamavet

      Military takes it's marching orders from the National Command Authority. That would be President Obama and his people. If they policy is flawed, that is not the military's fault. They follow the orders of the President. Think about it.

      November 26, 2012 at 11:46 pm | Reply
  39. Alfred E. Neuman

    All of the troops will be out in 2014 except for the several thousand that will be left behind for years to come. Look around the globe and this is pretty much standard operating procedure.

    November 26, 2012 at 7:44 pm | Reply
  40. John Adams

    The U.S. has no intention of getting its hitmen and hitladies out of Adghanistan.

    November 26, 2012 at 6:54 pm | Reply
    • seemingly

      I'm afraid Mr. Adams is correct. It seems this fear word, "terrorists" will always be used by the US government to protect its personal interests. sigh...

      November 26, 2012 at 7:31 pm | Reply
  41. rightospeak

    Why spend any more fine men and treasure on a useless venture while we are bankrupt and need to borrow money from Communist China to keep our government afloat ? If you continue this foolishness there may come a time soon when the soldiers will be left with no pay ( bankrupt government has no money ) and will have to fend for themselves in Afganistan run by Taliban. If you care about the men, abort the mission, let men return to their famililies before it is too late. VietNam should have been won or abandoned as a mission years before the final end. Just like the Korean War , the VietNam was not to be won.Mission Impossible only succeeds in movies. I hope that Obama will do the right thing and bring our troops home ASAP.

    November 26, 2012 at 6:36 pm | Reply
    • SatchFan

      Because the DoD found $1 Trillion dollars worth of minerals, including rare earth metals (that China corners the amrket) used on for making parts for electronics.

      Follow the money for US foreign policy. Chase Bank is already their mining and has a formeer SAS Special Forces guy rnning things. Read it in Time or womewhere.

      CNN and other network news outlets do not like t mention that, only fluffy surface stuff like this, never the real reasons reasons why... perhaps because the shareholders of all the Fortune 1000 companies all own each others stock . Look it up.

      Greed, Greed, Greed.

      November 26, 2012 at 7:50 pm | Reply
    • TR

      Because countless people depend on defense spending for their salaries. Boeing, Lockhead, etc

      November 26, 2012 at 10:19 pm | Reply
    • Tom

      Viet Nam was basically won until the media plastered that napalm burned girl all over the news, but they didn't report the atrocities that the Viet Cong perpetrated on it's population on a daily basis. I know because I was in-country then and saw the Charlies running in fear from airstrikes. Also, LBJ had a vested interest in keeping the war going. Him and his defense contractor buddies made over a$1,000,000.00 per day on supplies. That was a lot of bucks in those days. Do TRY to pay attention to history!

      November 26, 2012 at 10:24 pm | Reply
  42. 200 TON HAMMER

    250 recon drones maybe out of those maybe 40 electronic jammers drones that do psy ops in super heavy areas of warziristan Pakistan mountain region maybe add a heavy jet drones too carry multiple weapons quick strike packages like 5 5,000 pound Bunker busters like some aim-9 side winders for self defense
    along with smaller new version of gau m61a1 mini guns. Then like 10 global hawk
    Too carry 16 hell fire missiles and if doing sea patrols along hostle countrys shores ie 50 nautical miles from north Korea with global hawks carry 5 torpedos plus jammers and electronic sea markers for key surveillance areas

    November 26, 2012 at 5:18 pm | Reply
    • George Patton

      what are you? Santa Clause!

      November 26, 2012 at 5:47 pm | Reply
      • 200 TON HAMMER

        No Mr George p.I am just a small buisness owner in Arizona who served in two out of the four main military service branches but I do give back too charitys too help those less bless in I am debt free no bills and I travel the world with my passport too some awesome places

        November 26, 2012 at 6:17 pm |
    • Cherub

      All that and still can't win the war. Pathetic. The country is bankrupt....unemployment is in clouds....gdp is down to negative...and instead of reindeers all we can think of is bunker busters !!! How about some swords and go go fight those dudes hand to hand. Big Macho Man.

      November 26, 2012 at 6:46 pm | Reply
      • BrokeOutOfTheSheepPen

        Cherub, That's the best replay yet! Can't win the war because we invaded a country who doesn't want us there. Its about the same as Vietnam. We can bring all the high tech weapons, use all the latest intel, none of it matters. Because in 5 to 10 years when the U.S. is completely flat broke (debt ceiling to infinity), the afgans will have shaken us off like a bad flea infestation. And all we will have to show for is more dead American solders. The reason why we will not win is because the "Hearts and minds" policy is a sham.

        November 26, 2012 at 8:05 pm |

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