NATO to work on firming up number for boots left in Afghanistan
October 17th, 2013
05:59 PM ET

NATO to work on firming up number for boots left in Afghanistan

By Barbara Starr

As Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel prepares to fly to Brussels on Monday for a meeting of NATO defense ministers, the question of how many U.S. troops might remain in Afghanistan after 2014 is still unanswered.

But indications are emerging that it may be a relatively small number of troops that stay behind.

Several military and Pentagon officials tell CNN that a central option now being considered calls for a total NATO force of between 8,000 to 12,000 troops, with 3,000 to 4,000 coming from NATO countries, and the United States making up the balance.

While the final numbers could change, one senior Defense Department official said it's not likely to change by much. If fewer than 8,000 were to stay, relatively few would be able to engage in actual missions.

There appears to be little appetite in NATO capitals, or in Congress, for a larger force, especially in light of coming U.S. defense budget cuts, the official said. The Obama administration is expected to begin focusing over the next 30 days on a decision about those troop levels.

The size of this potential force also is in line with earlier NATO planning guidance for up to 10,000 troops.

The official declined to be identified because no decisions have been made, but he has direct knowledge of the latest thinking.

Hagel and other defense ministers will be briefed on the latest situation in Afghanistan. Several NATO countries privately have expressed an unwillingness to maintain a major troop commitment to Afghanistan for a lengthy period of time, so Hagel will have to get a sense of what the real alliance contribution may be.

The U.S. mission after 2014 will be devoted to counterterrorism to fight al Qaeda and militant groups, as well as training Afghan forces.

On a separate recent visit to Kabul, Secretary of State John Kerry finalized much of the detail of a US-Afghan bilateral security agreement with President Hamid Karzai.

Karzai is still planning to submit it to his own Loya Jirga grand council for their approval on two key points. One is over American insistence it will have legal jurisdiction over any U.S. troops that get into legal trouble. The other is over Afghanistan wanting assurances the United States would help it fight an attack from the outside.

According to two U.S. officials, the feeling is Karzai may be maneuvering to get a U.S. promise to back Afghanistan if it is attacked by Pakistan. Both officials said that is a promise the United States will not make.

A security agreement would have to be finalized before the United States and NATO can make firm troop commitments to a post-2014 force.

soundoff (13 Responses)
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    August 28, 2017 at 6:28 pm | Reply

    oblama what a guy, nothing but lies. he was going to close guantanimo, and all the troops out of afganistan during his campain... not .. one thing if the troos and contractors not in the sand box,what would 130,000 unemployed on the books. send the man in the white house home, where ever y he came from, he is definately not american.

    November 26, 2013 at 8:49 am | Reply
  5. Tom1940

    After the "pull-down" of U.S. and NATO and other allied forces from Afghanistan – the "sitting ducks" left behind will be like the Soviet Troops on their way out of Afghanistan back in the 80's. "Targets of opportunity" and capture and torture subjects for the Taliban. Is that really what we want? I suggest telling President Karzaii, to either keep his country under control with his own resources, or when the U.S. and the world has to come back to this region of the world to punish it's government and people for "being a boil on the butt of the world", that it will be "excized" and it will "glow in the dark" for years to come. An extinct nation, with an "extinct" race of people, who found that they "did not play well in the sandbox of nations" (and paid the ultimate price for such bad behavior).

    October 21, 2013 at 9:50 am | Reply
  6. George patton

    I say that as many as one single U.S. soldier left in Afghanistan is one too many!!! We never had any right whatsoever to be in that country and now these goons John Kerry and Barack Obama wants to keep our troops in Afghanistan indefinitely! This is why we cannot balance the federal budget! Unfortunately, the American people don't seem to care as they continue to fall for anything these right-wing politicians tell them as they evidently cannot think for themselves!!!

    October 17, 2013 at 7:12 pm | Reply
    • Josh

      Pakistani Muslims are killing Christians by blowing up their churches. Why? Because Pakistanis are ultra right wing nut cases who would kill anyone in the name of their religion. Pakistani Muslims harbored Bin Laden. These are the facts. We need to face these facts and not run away from them. These terrorists need to be dealt with.

      October 17, 2013 at 9:11 pm | Reply
      • Latif

        Well said, not to mention, that they're also undermining the Afghan sovereignty and trying to turn it into a terrorist attraction zone again, from where we will be attacked again. Pakistan is a disease to this world.

        October 18, 2013 at 10:20 am |
    • GG

      Give me a break heheh worthless as usual whats next

      October 18, 2013 at 9:57 pm | Reply
    • GHynson

      We're actually in the wrong country, we should be in Pakistan.
      Dealing with the lying @$$, back stabbing, terrorist harboring government there.

      October 23, 2013 at 12:35 am | Reply

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