US announces early end to combat operations in Afghanistan

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced that the US would end combat operations in Afghanistan in mid-to-late 2013, more than one year earlier than the previously announced date of the end of 2014. After ending their combat operations, the US forces would transition to a training and advising role, with the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) taking over the lead combat role. The ANSF currently number 305,000 police and army troops, and are slated to grow to 352, 000 by September 2012.

According to the Washington Post:

Current NATO strategy, agreed to at a summit in Lisbon in November 2010, calls for coalition forces to gradually shift to a training, advisory and assistance role with the Afghan military on the way to withdrawing all combat troops by the end of 2014.

A Panetta spokesman traveling with the defense chief issued a statement Wednesday evening — several hours after Panetta’s original remarks — saying that U.S. troops could still be involved in at least some combat operations , in partnership with Afghan forces, in 2014.

U.S. and NATO forces, he said, would still be actively engaged in helping Afghan forces operate. Although the Afghan army has grown in size and capability, it is still dependent on the U.S. military for airpower, troop movement, supplies and medical aid.

Secretary Panetta also said that no decision has been made on how many US troops will remain in Afghanistan once combat operations end. The previously announced plan called for a reduction from the current level of 90,000 US troops to 67,000 by October 2012 and a steady drawdown after that with most US troops out by the end of 2014.

Today’s announcement comes on the heels of an announcement by the French that they will withdraw their forces from Afghanistan by 2013.

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  • Neonmeat says:

    Could this be a condition the negotiations some allege are commencing with the Taliban?

  • luca says:

    Well guys, there is likely to be a lot of political posturing ahead of the coming presidential election in the US, but this makes sense: It is better to transition to an ANSF direct combat role earlier, when there are still thousands of US-ISAF forces to back them up in case things go awry, than to suddenly hand all security over in 2014 and leave them pretty much alone to deal with their shortcomings in the face of a still capable and cocky insurgency. Plus late 2013 can mean a lot of things and we still don’t know anything about the post 2014 strategic agreement between Washington and Kabul…

  • KaneKaizer says:

    In 2015 it’ll be open season on any Afghans who oppose the Taliban. I guess we don’t care anymore though. Unless of course the new President makes the gutsiest move in the history of Presidential decisions, but I doubt it.

  • Peter says:

    Is this electoral politics, or has the war strategy shifted to a smaller footprint and more technology?
    I’ve always favored putting warlords on our payroll and sending them after our enemies, in effect becoming the top warlord in the area, but that approach would be too difficult in the PC media age.
    Yet it seems we may be planning to do just that under the euphemism of “advisory role.”

  • Paul D says:

    The problem is not Afghanistan but Pakistan,Iran and Yemen

  • mike merlo says:

    All this kowtowing, pandering, gamesmanship etc., & not even a whisper let alone a rumor on the fate of SPC Bowe Bergdahl. The Administration should be ashamed of itself. The Israeli’s went the ‘distance’ for Gilad Shalit & the ‘best’ we can do for Bergdahl is pretend he doesn’t exist!

  • blert says:

    0bama is being forced to walk-back from his 2008 Campaign resolution to end-the-war-in-Afghanistan-where-it-should-have-always-been-fought.
    Somehow, he has to get the ‘hostages’ home before long.
    I’ve argued for years that the ISAF needs to eject the NATO fraction: they’re pure overhead.
    COIN can’t work with Pakistan subverting Kabul. There is no ‘work around.’
    It is now obvious to even Clinton that Yemen is ground zero for a Yemeni-founded terrorist ‘army.’
    It’s not getting a lot of press, but the suppression campaign against Somali pirates ( sub-contracting with AQAP ) is constantly building.

  • KG says:

    This has to be all political, Obama will ride this on the campaign trail for sure. There is no way that with the numbers of ANSF and the training they have thus far will get them through very far without our continuous support and training. Even if most of the conventional forces leave we will still be putting billions of dollars into the country.

  • Paul says:

    As put by another Paul, the problem won’t be so much Afghanistan but Pakistan itself. Leave Afghanistan and Pakistan will eventually be trapped between two pincers, a Pachtoun jihadist pincer on the north/west and a Kashmiri jihadist pincer on the East. The two of them have proven they can expand far from their traditional basis. Although they have been grown up and fed by ISI both will turn against Pakistan regular state and no doubt this will become a worldwide concern. This could end up with a collapse of central Pakistani state in the hands of the extremists as well as a war with India (e.g. If ISI tries to relocate his dangerous assets to the Indian theater) as well as anything else between these two extremes.

  • HJM says:

    I worked with a handful of good ANA soldiers and I would have taken a bullet for the ANCOP personnel we worked with because I know they would have taken one for me. I fear for them once we leave. We’ve gone backwards in that region. Pakistan is not our ally and this Karzai Government looks more and more like a foe rather then a friend. Maybe if we go back to having Tier 1 types in the lead as we did in the early days we’ll get back some control and lead them in the right direction. Maybe its the foot print we have with conventional forces that gives the “occupier” impression to the locals but I fear the locals are indifferent to their future leaders and the Taliban is just relaxing in the NWFP waiting for us to leave in big numbers. Like Iraq, I can only hope we’ve planted to the seed of freedom and liberty and the people of those countries want to nurture it. I believe we may have done all we can working under the constraints and ROE for these wars.

  • Charu says:

    This is sad! How can we believe any assurances from the Taliban that Al Qaeda or some other version of global terrorism won’t be back to attack us at home? What a waste of our soldiers lives because the enemy was given shelter and rearmed by a country that we gave billions to. This is a Shakespearean tragedy like King Lear; betrayed by the ones we trusted and left blinded and railing at our fate, made possible by our own foolish choices.

  • Mac says:

    Thank you HJM!

  • Khucxake says:

    The US have sacrified much there. It is time for the Afghanistan manage their country themselves, stand on their own feet.

  • Mark says:

    Finally they are ending the operations, thanks for reporting


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