Report: US expects NATO allies and partners to provide 10,000 trainers in post-2014 Afghanistan

US expects that the German military will retain responsibility for Regional Command North beyond 2014

From Matthias Gebauer and Christoph Schult, Spiegel:  The United States envisions only a minimal presence of American troops in Afghanistan once the NATO mission comes to an end in late 2014. SPIEGEL ONLINE has learned that fewer than 10,000 US soldiers are to remain stationed in the country beyond that date. Douglas Lute, special assistant to the US president on Pakistan and Afghanistan, informed NATO ambassadors of the plan at alliance headquarters in Brussels in the second week of February. He said that only half of the units stationed in Afghanistan beyond 2014 will be made available for training Afghan troops.

Lute’s confidential briefing was the first official confirmation that the US foresees an extremely limited presence in the country going forward. And the numbers presented by Lute have alarmed the alliance. Though the post-mission support and training mission in Afghanistan — to be carried out by NATO in conjunction with eight non-alliance countries — has been under development for months, the extremely limited number of US troops available puts the alliance in a bind.

The aim of the mission — now called Resolute Support after a pair of name changes — is to ensure that the Afghan army, built up with great effort in recent years, doesn’t immediately fall apart once the NATO mission, known as the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), concludes. But Lute’s presentation made it clear that US President Barack Obama is determined to radically shrink the American presence in Afghanistan following 2014. In his State of the Union address this month, Obama publicized his intention to bring home half of the 60,000 US troops currently stationed in Afghanistan by the end of this year. . . .

Washington’s mini-force raises the bar for Germany and other NATO member states. Lute said that the US expects that the German military will retain responsibility for Regional Command North and direct military training operations there beyond 2014. The US, he said, would coordinate training and support operations in the south and east. Italy is to continue its responsibility for the west.

But the US envisions a division of its forces. Only 5,000 of the 10,000 American troops foreseen by the plan are to be made available for the training mission. The other half will be earmarked for targeted operations against terror cells and al-Qaida camps as well as for the protection of US facilities in the country such as the embassy in Kabul. 

In total, the post-2014 training mission is to encompass 15,000 troops. The US expects its NATO partners to plug any gaps that might result due to its limited presence. For Germany, the number is likely to remain large even after 2014, primarily due to the operation of the large camp in Mazar-e-Sharif.  (photo: DPA)

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