US President Barack Obama may indicate the number of US troops to be maintained in Afghanistan post-2014 and the pace of the drawdown of soldiers from the war-torn country in an address to the Congress.
On the eve of his important State of the Union Address, informed sources familiar with the White House deliberations told PTI that US President was weighing in favour of a troop level between 3,000 and 9,000 by end of 2014, when the US-led international forces are scheduled to hand over the country’s security to Afghan forces.
This is said to be the lowest range of the three options recommended by the General John Allen, the former Commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
Allen, who handed over his Afghan command on Sunday, is understood to have submitted his recommendations to the White House last month.
Informed sources, however cautioned that Obama has not taken a final decision, which has been kept on his table but there was high probability that the US President in his State of the Union Address could indicate his much awaited decision on Afghanistan by tomorrow.
It is understood that Obama would simultaneously seek commitment from NATO and other allies countries of an equal number of troop that the US would commit itself to be present in Afghanistan after 2014.
Notably, Afghan President Hamid Karzai in his joint press conference with Obama in early January had said it is up to the US to decide on the number of troops that it would like to have in his country.
Currently there are 60,000 US troops in Afghanistan.
“The United States and all ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) partners are currently considering the post-2014 troop levels in Afghanistan. In addition, they are deciding what pace the drawdown will take,” former Afghan Ambassador to the US Said T Jawad told PTI in an interview.
“Both of these decisions and the announcement of these figures tomorrow will be momentous for Afghanistan and its people,” Jawad said.
Jawad said the number of coalition forces left in Afghanistan post-2014 will impact the security transition, the upcoming elections, and any potential reconciliation with the Taliban and other opposition groups.
“The US has said that its troop numbers will be modest, but meaningful. Meaningful is only possible if Afghanistan is able to meet its side of the commitment,” he said.
During his joint press conference with Karzai at the White House on January 11, Obama had announced acceleration in the ongoing security transition of forces in Afghanistan saying the US-led coalition forces will move to a support role this spring.
“Next year, this long war will come to a responsible end. Today we agreed that, as Afghan forces take the lead and as President Karzai announces the final phase of the transition, coalition forces will move to a support role this spring,” Obama said following his meeting with Karzai.
“Our troops will continue to fight alongside Afghans when needed, but let me say it as plainly as I can. Starting this spring, our troops will have a different mission: training, advising, assisting Afghan forces,” Obama had said.
“It will be a historic moment and another step toward full Afghan sovereignty, something I know that President Karzai cares deeply about, as do the Afghan people,” he added.