President Barack Obama should say how many U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan after 2014 because a failure to decide is creating confusion among Afghans, Democratic and Republican senators said today.
“For our part, I believe that President Obama should signal to the Afghans and our allies what the post-2014 U.S. troop presence will look like governed by a security agreement,” Senator Robert Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, said today. “The lack of clarity on this point has led to too much hedging in the region.”
Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, was joined at a committee hearing on Afghanistan by Tennessee Republican Senator Bob Corker, who chided the administration as indecisive. Ambassador James Dobbins, the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Peter Lavoy, acting assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs, testified.
The Obama administration “has tremendous difficulty making decisions,” Corker said. “This administration has multiple voices within it that keep it from having clarity. I think the administration has got to quit looking at its navel and make a decision on what the force structure is going to be in Afghanistan.”
The senators’ comments came after the New York Times reported this week that the Obama administration was considering withdrawing all U.S. troops after 2014 over differences with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, including a dispute about an effort to start peace talks with the Taliban.
Karzai may believe that that some people in the Obama administration “almost want Afghanistan to fail,” Corker said.
“He’s a strange person,” Corker said. “I think we’ve helped create a monster here.”
Earlier this year, the Obama administration had signaled that 8,000 to 12,000 troops including both U.S. and NATO forces would remain in Afghanistan after the American combat role ends in 2014. U.S. military officials have recommended the U.S. leave as many as 13,600 troop.
The U.S. and Afghanistan are negotiating a security agreement to guarantee legal protections for any U.S. troops that remain in the country. Karzai called a halt in those talks, citing his unhappiness over the U.S. effort to start the Taliban talks.
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