From Deb Riechmann, the AP: This year’s pullout of 23,000 American troops from Afghanistan is at the halfway mark, U.S. Gen. John Allen, the top commander of U.S. and NATO forces, said Sunday in an interview with The Associated Press.
It’s a kind of milestone toward wrapping up the U.S. and NATO combat role after a decade in the war-torn nation – but Allen cautioned against putting too much emphasis on the U.S. troop drawdown, because the U.S.-led coalition’s campaign is continuing.
Still, Allen said that he knows the clock is ticking on the NATO coalition’s combat mission, which is to end at the close of 2014 – just 29 months from now. . . .
About 90 percent of coalition operations now are partnered with Afghan forces, and Afghan forces are in the lead more than 40 percent of the time, he said. . . .
By the end of this year and into next year, Allen would like to see 5,500 personnel working in police and army advisory teams, but now the mission has 20 percent fewer advisers than it seeks. . . .
"August will be the heaviest month," Allen said. "A lot is coming out now and a great deal will come out in August and early September. We’ll be done probably around mid-September or so."
President Barack Obama pulled out 10,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan last year and ordered another 23,000 to be withdrawn by Sept. 30. That will leave roughly 68,000 American troops still in the country. By Oct. 1, 40,000 NATO forces will also still be fighting. . . .
"The intent, ultimately, is to have the excess out of the theater about the time the mission would be completed in 29 months," he said. "And it will take all of that time, actually, to move that excess out – either a shipping container or a vehicle about every seven minutes between now until then."
Even so, he said it would be a mistake to focus too much on the exit of U.S. troops and equipment.
"It’s not just about the drawdown and it’s not just about America," he said. "There are 50 states in this coalition. There is also a significant Afghan national security force presence and that number is getting bigger by the day and they are getting more capable by the day."
He emphasized that work in Afghanistan will not end with the NATO combat mission in 2014.
"We’re probably going to see some post-2014 military presence – some U.S. presence and a NATO presence – and while we’ve got much work to do in the next 29 months, we’ll have additional time later for the continued professionalization of the Afghan security forces," he said, adding that the post-2014 NATO mission is still in the planning stage. (photo: Muhammed Muheisen/AP)