US cutting plans for large civilian presence post-2014 Afghanistan - Pakistan Today

US cutting plans for large civilian presence post-2014 Afghanistan

The Obama administration has ordered significant cutbacks in initial plans for a robust US civilian presence in Afghanistan after US combat troops withdraw two years from now, The Washington Post reported citing US officials.
“Learning from Iraq, where postwar ambitions proved unsustainable, the White House and top State Department officials are confronting whether the United States needs — and can protect — a large diplomatic compound in Kabul, four consulates around the country and other civilian outposts to oversee aid projects and monitor Afghanistan’s political pulse.”
Planners were recently told to reduce personnel proposals by at least 20 percent, a senior administration official said. Projects once considered crucial are being divided into lists of those considered sustainable and those that will not be continued. “As we saw in the Iraq exercise, you need to be very tough on the numbers going in,” the official said. “We need to have enough civilians to achieve the goals we’ve laid out,” within “a finite amount of money we have to spend.”
Officials declined to identify specific projects that might end. But the inevitable decrease in eyes and ears across Afghanistan could threaten a range of long-term US investments and priorities, such as women’s rights, education, health care and infrastructure, the Post reported.
The challenge of balancing the American civilian presence of what are now about 1,000 officials and thousands of contractors with reasonable resources goes beyond pocketbook and personnel issues, according to several senior officials, who discussed the planning on condition of anonymity because it is at an early stage.
On one side of the simmering internal debate are fiscal constraints, diminished hopes for progress and national weariness with the Afghanistan effort. On the other side are formal US pledges of development support, moral and political commitments to a country where nearly 2,200 US troops have died and $590 billion has been spent, and fears Afghanistan could again become a terrorist haven.
Looming over the debate is the determination to avoid a repeat of the September attack on a poorly defended US diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, that killed a US ambassador and three other Americans.
The report notes that as hard as Iraq has been, Afghanistan poses far more difficult security and logistical problems. There is little optimism that the war against the Taliban will be over before US combat troops leave or that Afghan security forces will prove an able substitute. “The problem with Afghanistan is, it’s not going to look like success,” James F. Jeffrey, who until September was US ambassador to Iraq, said in an interview. “It’s still going to be backward and totally corrupt, with not enough government infrastructure and a huge burning insurgency. This is terribly complicated and hard stuff under the best of circumstances, and these are the worst.”
According to the Post, US diplomats and other civilian officials outside Kabul are housed at military at bases large and small. They depend on the military to protect and transport them, and provide medical care. They consume imported food and water brought in massive military convoys.
The bases are disappearing, and plans for the Afghans to provide security leave many Americans nervous.
Where Iraq has been kept afloat by oil revenue, Afghanistan depends on handouts. International donors have promised a post-2014 annual supplement of $4 billion for Afghan security forces and an equal amount in development and economic assistance. More than half of the $8 billion will come from the United States.
Firm decisions on civilian numbers and locations cannot be made “until we resolve exactly what the military follow-on numbers are going to be,” one official said. “That will determine . . . where we locate, what kind of security, medical and other support we might be able to get.”
The Kabul-headquartered US-led International Security Assistance Force is preparing recommendations for Obama on how fast to withdraw the 68,000 remaining US combat troops in Afghanistan.
Plans for the follow-on military presence are being formulated in the Pentagon, where the largest of several preliminary options calls for about 10,000 troops, with several other NATO governments penciled in for several hundred each.
Meanwhile, officials say the NATO allies are waiting to see what sort of agreement is reached between the Americans and the Afghans, and how many US troops will remain. Although the Afghan government has agreed to a long-term foreign military presence in principle, negotiations over the size and terms have just begun. The main sticking point is likely to be the issue that led to the breakdown with Iraq — whether US forces are immune from Afghan legal jurisdiction.

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One Comment;

  1. Hasan said:

    US may reassess its strategy of military intervention in places far from its own borders. The futility of this strategy is obvious and the latest lesson is provided by US experience in Afghanistan.

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