Keeping US Troops in Afghanistan

The commander of US and coalition forces in Afghanistan told Senate legislators on Thursday that he recommends keeping 9,800 US troops in the country through the summer fighting season. That will make drawing down to 5,500 by Jan. 1, 2017, very difficult, Army Gen. John Campbell said, “but I have to figure out a way.” Campbell said the 5,500 number is based only on the counterterrorism mission and does not allow for much of the train, advise, and assist mission. “If the Afghans cannot improve, we’re going to have to make some adjustments, and that means that number will most likely go up,” he told the Senate Armed Services Committee. Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) opened the hearing saying that 5,500 US troops “will not be adequate” for both missions, and said he believes a “calendar-based withdrawal plan” puts our national security at risk. Campbell said he will “prepare to go to 5,500 as ordered, but at the same time look at conditions on the ground, look at the capabilities, …and to provide those adjustments to my military leadership.”