US hints at slowing Afghan pullout

Published February 22, 2015
US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter (L) and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani arrive for a joint press conference at the Presidential Palace in Kabul on February 21, 2015.  — AFP
US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter (L) and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani arrive for a joint press conference at the Presidential Palace in Kabul on February 21, 2015. — AFP

KABUL: President Barack Obama’s new Pentagon chief said on Saturday the United States was seriously considering slowing the pace of troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, as the country faces a growing Taliban insurgency.

US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter’s comments in Kabul offered the clearest sign yet that Washington was ready to delay the closure of some bases and retain more troops after appeals by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and advice from commanders.

To safeguard “hard-won” progress, Mr Obama “is considering a number of options to reinforce our support for President Ghani’s security strategy, including possible changes to the timeline for our drawdown of US troops,” Mr Carter said after talks with Afghan leaders.

“That could mean taking another look at the timing and sequencing of base closures to ensure we have the right array of coalition capabilities,” he said at a joint news conference with Mr Ghani.

Apart from troop numbers, the United States and its allies would need to make “long-term commitments in resources, equipment and other support” to ensure the success of the Afghan forces, he said.

Mr Carter’s visit comes amid a sharp rise in Afghan casualties from the 13-year conflict, with the UN recording a 22 per cent increase in the number of civilians killed and injured in 2014 due to intensification in ground fighting between government and insurgent forces.

It also comes as Mr Obama faces a decision about the timetable for a troop drawdown in Afghanistan. Under the current plan, the 10,000-strong US force is due to drop to roughly 5,000 by the end of 2015 and then pull out altogether by the time Mr Obama leaves office in two years.

But the Obama administration has already delayed the pace of the withdrawal, allowing 1,000 additional American forces to remain this year.

Afghan leaders and some lawmakers have urged the US president to reconsider the withdrawal timetable, warning that an early US exit could jeopardise security and international aid.

Mr Carter said that as part of the review of the pullout plan, Washington was also “rethinking the details of the counter-terrorism mission” that currently targets Al Qaeda militants with raids by US and Afghan special forces and drone strikes.

Published in Dawn February 22nd , 2015

On a mobile phone? Get the Dawn Mobile App: Apple Store | Google Play

Opinion

Editorial

On a leash
Updated 22 Feb, 2024

On a leash

Shehbaz will not find it easy to introduce the much-needed major changes to the economy without running into resistance.
Shameful veto
22 Feb, 2024

Shameful veto

THE US has scored a hat-trick by vetoing, for the third time, a resolution in the UN Security Council calling for an...
Truth under threat
22 Feb, 2024

Truth under threat

AS WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange mounts a last-ditch effort against being extradited from the UK to the US, one...
Silencing the public
Updated 21 Feb, 2024

Silencing the public

Acting as if it is unaccountable, it is now curtailing citizens’ digital rights without even bothering to come up with a justification.
Fitch’s concern
Updated 21 Feb, 2024

Fitch’s concern

It warns that “near-term political uncertainty may complicate the country’s efforts to secure a financing agreement with the IMF to succeed the Stand-by Arrangement”.
Zoo zealotry
Updated 21 Feb, 2024

Zoo zealotry

IN a bizarre twist of faith and fur, the Indian right-wing Hindu nationalist group, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, has...