| ||Afghan War Commander Gives Options for After ’14|
The New York Times
By Elisabeth Bumiller and Eric Schmitt
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WASHINGTON - Gen. John R. Allen, the senior American commander in Afghanistan, has submitted military options to the Pentagon that would keep 6,000 to 20,000 American troops in Afghanistan after 2014, defense officials said on Wednesday.
General Allen offered Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta three plans with different troop levels: 6,000, 10,000 and 20,000, each with a risk factor probably attached to it, a senior military official said. An option of 6,000 troops would probably pose a higher risk of failure for the American effort in Afghanistan, 10,000 would be medium risk and 20,000 would be lower risk, the official said.
But the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the options, said that a more important factor in the success of any post-2014 American mission was how well — or whether — an Afghan government known for corruption could deliver basic services to the population.
General Allen’s options offer ascending levels of American involvement in guarding against the expansion of terrorist groups in Afghanistan and advising an Afghan military that has limited air power, logistics, leadership and ability to evacuate and treat its wounded.
With 6,000 troops, defense officials said, the American mission would largely be a counterterrorism fight of Special Operations commandos who would hunt down insurgents. There would be limited logistical support and training for Afghan security forces. With 10,000 troops, the United States would expand training of Afghan security forces. With 20,000 troops, the Obama administration would add some conventional Army forces to patrol in limited areas.
Defense officials said it was unclear whether President Obama had studied the options, although they said he was expected to discuss them at the White House next week when President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan visits. About 66,000 American troops are now in Afghanistan.
Under an agreement between NATO and the Afghan government, the NATO combat mission in Afghanistan is to end on Dec. 31, 2014, when the Afghan Army and the police are to have full responsibility for their country’s security. But in recent months the Obama administration has been debating the size and mission of a residual American force that would remain after 2014 to increase Afghan stability.
The help is sorely needed, according to the most recent Pentagon report on the state of the 11-year-old war. In an assessment released last month that covers April through September 2012, the Pentagon found that only one of the Afghan Army’s 23 brigades was able to operate independently without air or other military support from the United States or its NATO partners.
Defense officials said that General Allen’s recommendations did not include options for the pace of withdrawals of the remaining 66,000 troops, although American officials say he wants to keep a large majority — perhaps as many as 60,000 — through the fighting season next fall.
Military officials anticipate that the White House will push for a more rapid withdrawal.
General Allen’s recommendations come as he and Mr. Panetta are soon due to leave their jobs. General Allen is to be replaced in February by Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., and Mr. Panetta is expected to step down after Mr. Obama nominates a successor.
General Allen, who is under investigation for a series of e-mails he exchanged with a socialite in Tampa, Fla., Jill Kelley, is to become the NATO supreme allied commander in Europe, but his nomination is delayed until the investigation concludes.
Pentagon officials said Wednesday that he had long planned to leave Afghanistan in February and that the inquiry had not accelerated his departure.