WASHINGTON: Thirteen retired US generals and senior diplomats urged President Barack Obama on Friday to maintain the current US troop level in Afghanistan, saying a reduction would undercut the morale of Afghan government forces and bolster the Taliban.

The 13 men oversaw US military operations and policy in Afghanistan during the administrations of Obama and former President George W. Bush. They included retired Army general and CIA director David Petraeus and four other former top commanders of US-led international forces there, as well as five former American ambassadors to Afghanistan.

In an open letter to Obama in The National Interest magazine, they said maintaining the current level of 9,800 US troops would “likely have helpful effects on refugee flows, the confidence of the Taliban, the morale of the Afghan military and Afghan people, the state of the Afghan economy and perhaps even the strategic assessments of some in Pakistan.” “Conversely, we are convinced that a reduction of our military and financial support over the coming months would negatively affect each of these,” they wrote.

The letter was published days before the current US military commander in Afghanistan, Army General John Nicholson, is expected to submit a review of US military strategy in Afghanistan.

Under Obama’s current plan, the number of US military personnel is due to drop to 5,500 by 2017. But Taliban forces lately have made significant gains and rejected peace negotiations with Afghanistan’s government, which has been weakened by internal differences.

Obama has made extracting the United States from its 15-year-long war in Afghanistan a top priority of his presidency, unsuccessfully pursuing efforts to bring the Taliban into peace talks.

“Afghanistan is the place where Al Qaeda and affiliates first planned the 9/11 attacks and a place where they continue to operate — and is thus important in the broader effort to defeat the global extremist movement today,” the retired generals and diplomats wrote.

“It is a place where Al Qaeda and ISIS (militant Islamic State group) still have modest footprints that could be expanded if a security vacuum developed. If Afghanistan were to revert to the chaos of the 1990s, millions of refugees would again seek shelter in neighbouring countries and overseas, dramatically intensifying the severe challenges already faced in Europe and beyond.”

The signatories also included: retired Marine Corps General John Allen, who served as Obama’s chief representative to the US-led anti-Islamic State coalition; and former US ambassadors to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker and Zalmay Khalilzad.

Published in Dawn, June 5th, 2016

Opinion

Editorial

The establishment pivot
18 Jan, 2022

The establishment pivot

It is a sad reality that the power matrix continues to revolve around the establishment.
18 Jan, 2022

Remittances growth

THE hefty growth in remittances from Pakistanis living abroad continues to defy forecasts to the contrary. New State...
18 Jan, 2022

China-Iran deal

THE China-Iran strategic deal that has recently taken effect is more than just a long-term bilateral agreement...
Security policy unveiled
Updated 17 Jan, 2022

Security policy unveiled

PAKISTAN’S freshly unveiled National Security Policy has broadened the traditional concept and included economic...
Bold decisions
Updated 17 Jan, 2022

Bold decisions

IT is a double blow within a matter of days. The Islamabad High Court’s order last week to demolish a navy golf...
17 Jan, 2022

Rohingya camp blaze

A HUGE blaze in a refugee camp housing members of the Rohingya community in Bangladesh last week has left up to ...