Gen. Joseph Dunford, USMC, has been nominated to take command as the top US and ISAF commander in Afghanistan. His task will be to overseed the withdrawal of US and NATO forces by the end of 2014. During hearings with the Senate Armed Service Committeee, Dunford said that the foresees a US residual force of more than 1,000 troops and equipment after withdrawal in 2014.
While Dunford did not state the exact number of troops, a plan that was to be prepared by outgoing Gen. John Allen made clear that his primary job was to oversee the withdrawal.
Secretary of Defenseasked for an expedited confirmation of Dunford's nomination, after it was disclosed that Gen. John Allen was under investigation for flirtatious e-mails with a Tampa socialite Jill Kelley. Allen's nomination as the Commander of NATO also has been put on hold.
Allen's draw-down recommendations are due to the White House by the end of the year. Dunford skated around questions on whether or not there would be a gradual or quick withdrawal of the 68,000 US troops remaining in Afghanistan. Obviously he did not want to steal Allen's thunder.
Purpose of a residual force
There has been criticism of the administration for withdrawing from Iraq without a residual force and the lack of an agreement to give US troops immunity from Iraqi prosecution.
While progress is being touted in Afghanistan, there is an ongoing threat of the Taliban crossing the Afghan/Iraqi border. "green-on-blue" attacks, involving Aghan uniformed security forces, have been on the rise.
The US withdrawal plan, contingent on Afghan security forces taking responsibility for Afghanistan, envisages a residual force of US military personnel acting as advisors to continue counter-insurgency operations. It will likely also include the continuation of drone attacks. This force would require force protection, which is likely to be handled by US forces and not delegated to Afghans.
Afghan security forces are expected to grow to a force of nearly 300,000. A force of 10,000 US troops would not sound unreasonable considering the tasks involved.
The failure to negotiate a "Status of Forces Agreement" in Iraq resulted in the full withdrawal of US troops. Dunford stressed the need to start negotiating that treaty with the Afghans sooner rather than later. He commented that the talks started too late in Iraq, causing the government to reject a residual forces.
Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) told Dunford that he wouldn't vote for a penny for the war if immunity to US troops was not included in any negotiated deal.
US and Afghan officials met for the first time on Thursday to negotiate a security agreement for US post war deployment.
Dunford said that the withdrawal goal set by the Obama administration is reasonable.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich) and other senators voiced support for Dunford's nominaton.
There is an arrangement between Afghanistan and NATO countries that there will be ongoing involvement in Afghanistan for the next decade. The cost for this commitment is estimated at $4.2 billion, half of which will be paid for by American tax payers.
Source: Washington Post