In an interview with TOLONews, US General John Allen, commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, discussed US plans to support Afghanistan after 2014. While the complete strategic agreement is still in the works, General Allen provided some details.
Currently the US has about 100,000 troops in Afghanistan, while the rest of ISAF contributes another 40,000. As announced by President Obama in June 2011, the US plans to draw down its forces to 68,000 troops by September 2012. From there, the US will continue to drawn down to a much smaller residual force by the end of 2014. A specific number has not been quoted but will likely be between 10,000 and 20,000 troops. Other ISAF nations plan to draw down their forces along similar lines.
At that point, conventional military operations would be discontinued. According to General Allen, the US and allied force’s mission will be reduced to:
- training and mentoring of the Afghan National Security Forces, which includes the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police;
- providing “enabler” functions such as helicopter transportation, medical treatment, and intelligence gathering (air support including ground attack will probably also be needed); and
- counterterrorism operations, to be provided by US and allied special operations forces. Note that a counterterrorism organization is already in place in Afghanistan, Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). This is separate from the ISAF organization which runs the conventional military operation. OEF currently numbers about 10,000 troops.
US forces will share bases with Afghan security forces, Allen said. It has not yet been determined what the US role would be if Afghanistan suffered a conventional attack from one if its neighbors. Additionally, the US military is not presently authorized to operate outside of Afghan territory.
The Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) currently number 301,000 troops. By October 2012, the ANSF is slated to grow to 353,000 troops in total, consisting of 191,000 troops in the Afghan National Army and 162,000 officers in the Afghan National Police. There is no plan to grow beyond this. After October 2012, ISAF training and mentoring will concentrate on professionalizing the force and developing the “enabler” functions, although the process will not be complete by the end of 2014.