U.S. planning to keep 6,000 to 20,000 American troops in Afghanistan after 2014

About 66,000 American troops are now in Afghanistan

From Elisabeth Bumiller and Eric Schmitt, New York Times:  Gen. John R. Allen, the senior American commander in Afghanistan, has submitted military options to the Pentagon that would keep 6,000 to 20,000 American troops in Afghanistan after 2014, defense officials said on Wednesday.

General Allen offered Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta three plans with different troop levels: 6,000, 10,000 and 20,000, each with a risk factor probably attached to it, a senior military official said. An option of 6,000 troops would probably pose a higher risk of failure for the American effort in Afghanistan, 10,000 would be medium risk and 20,000 would be lower risk, the official said.

But the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the options, said that a more important factor in the success of any post-2014 American mission was how well — or whether — an Afghan government known for corruption could deliver basic services to the population. . . .

With 6,000 troops, defense officials said, the American mission would largely be a counterterrorism fight of Special Operations commandos who would hunt down insurgents. There would be limited logistical support and training for Afghan security forces. With 10,000 troops, the United States would expand training of Afghan security forces. With 20,000 troops, the Obama administration would add some conventional Army forces to patrol in limited areas. . . .

About 66,000 American troops are now in Afghanistan. . . .

Under an agreement between NATO and the Afghan government, the NATO combat mission in Afghanistan is to end on Dec. 31, 2014, when the Afghan Army and the police are to have full responsibility for their country’s security. But in recent months the Obama administration has been debating the size and mission of a residual American force that would remain after 2014 to increase Afghan stability.

The help is sorely needed, according to the most recent Pentagon report on the state of the 11-year-old war. In an assessment released last month that covers April through September 2012, the Pentagon found that only one of the Afghan Army’s 23 brigades was able to operate independently without air or other military support from the United States or its NATO partners.   (photo: Scott Olson/Getty)

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