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.