The Obama administration has made an urgent appeal for international donors to pledge more money to pay for Afghanistan’s security forces after the departure of U.S. and coalition combat troops at the end of 2014.
In formal diplomatic demarches sent to 64 countries this month, and in direct appeals by President Obama and top national security aides, the administration has outlined a $4.1 billion annual budget for the Afghan army and police, according to U.S. and foreign officials.
The size of the ANSF
The US and the international community currently pay for the vast majority of ANSF expenses, with the US providing most of the funds.
The ANSF has been steadily growing in size and will reach its goal of 352,000 troops later this year. The plan is to maintain that size until the end of 2014. The post-2014 plan had not been decided. But questions as to whether the ANSF should be maintained in future at the 352,000-troop level (at a cost of $6 billion per year), or instead its size and cost should be cut, have been under consideration.
Discussions on this topic began last September, and a proposal was put forward at a NATO conference in February this year. Now, Obama is moving ahead with a formal request for funds. With the request, as reported in The Washington Post, it is apparent that the question of the future size of the ANSF has been answered.
The combined Afghan force is expected to reach a target strength of 352,000 in October…. The post-2014 budget … anticipates additional savings from a reduction in the size of the force of up to one-third by 2017, a projection that assumes successful reconciliation with the Taliban.
A budget of $4.1 billion per year dictates that the ANSF will be cut by one-third, from 352,000 to 230,000 troops, after 2014.
The real decision made
One important point should to be noted. The budget “assumes successful reconciliation with the Taliban.” That is a difficult assumption to make at this time. In his testimony to Congress last week, General John Allen, commander of ISAF forces in Afghanistan, said the decision to reduce the size of the ANSF had not yet been made, and that the decision would be contingent upon the security situation having improved enough to justify the cut. One would assume that the best time to make that determination would be sometime in 2014 when the security situation, and the status of “Taliban reconciliation,” would be clearer.
But Obama’s funding request indicates that the decision has already been made. There will be no contingency for maintaining the ANSF at its full strength. In other words, Obama has decided that Afghanistan’s security forces will be significantly reduced after 2014, regardless of the security situation and the status of Taliban reconciliation.