Afghan war commander Gen John Allen does not want any more American troops withdrawn than those already scheduled to leave.
Allen wants no more troop withdrawals than those already scheduled.
Afghan war commander Gen. John Allen on Thursday pushed back for the first time at suggestions that the U.S. withdraw more than 23,000 troops from Afghanistan this year, laying down a marker of sorts as the debate over future U.S. troop levels heats up.
Allen, appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, was quick to caution that he needed to conduct more analysis before making a formal recommendation to President Obama. He said he was unlikely to present those findings to the White House until sometime this fall or winter.
“My opinion is that we will need significant combat power in 2013,” Allen said in response to repeated questioning by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. “Sixty-eight is a good ‘going-in ‘number, but I owe the president some analysis on that.”
At issue is the future size of the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. The military is set to withdraw the last 23,000 of the 33,000 surge troops from Afghanistan by this fall, leaving open the question of when the remaining 68,000 troops should return home.
Some in the Obama administration believe that tens of thousands of those remaining troops should withdraw later this year. Senior military commanders, speaking on background, have consistently argued that no additional troops should leave in 2012, in part to help the U.S. and its allies safeguard recent security gains through next summer’s fighting season. Allen’s comments made clear that he shares that belief.
The testimony come as the Afghan war debate, long dormant, has begun to intensify because of U.S. weariness about the long conflict. A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll found that 60 percent of the country feel the war is no longer worth fighting and that Republican support, for years higher than that of the country as a whole, had fallen sharply.
On the ground in Afghanistan, meanwhile, the administration of Afghan President Hamid Karzai reacted furiously to U.S. failures like the massacre of 16 civilians earlier this month, allegedly by an American soldier.