March 21, 2012
The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan said Tuesday that, once a scheduled 23,000 U.S. troops are withdrawn by the end of September, he does not expect to consider additional drawdowns until next year.
“I’ll give the president my best military advice with regard to the combat power that we’ll need to accomplish this mission, probably in 2013,” Gen. John R. Allen told Congress. “I’m not sure that I’d be able to see out to ’14 at that point, but I’d probably have a pretty good feel for it.”
The United States and NATO have agreed to withdraw all combat troops by December 2014. By then, the U.S.-led coalition will have transferred security authority to Afghan forces throughout the country, Allen said. “But we will still have combat forces in Afghanistan all the way to the end.”
… The question, which the administration has barely begun to discuss, is how fast to withdraw the 68,000 troops who will remain after September. During a news conference last week, President Obama called for a “gradual pace” that “doesn’t result in a steep cliff at the end of 2014.”