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Pentagon: Leave 10k troops in Afghanistan or remove them all

The Pentagon has reportedly offered the White House an ultimatum with regards to the future of the military’s involvement in Afghanistan: Either leave 10,000 troops behind past the previously declared 2014 deadline or remove them altogether.

United States President Barack Obama has been adamant since early  during his first term in office that he’d end the war in  Afghanistan on his watch. With some 37,500 troops still there,  however, and only 11 months until it’s time to leave, his  administration’s military leaders now say the president must  pursue one of two choices.

The   Wall Street Journal was the first outlet to report late  Tuesday that officials at the US Department of Defense have  offered Mr. Obama a pair of options. The president would have to  either agree to keep 10,000 US troops in Afghanistan past that  Dec. 31, 2014 deadline as a security precaution, or else ensure  that all service members are sent home before the years’ end, the  paper reported.

“The proposal is 10,000 or basically nothing, a  pullout,” one official who was briefed on the plan added to  a report published that same day by the   New York Times.

According to that paper, officials agree that leaving less than  10,000 troops after the 2014 deadline would not allow for the  trove of diplomatic, military and intelligence officials expected  to stay indefinitely beyond the end of the year to be properly  protected.

“The president has not yet made decisions about final troop  numbers,” National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin  Hayden told the Times. Ultimately that decision will involve some  input from Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, though, who so far  has been mostly silently on proposed bilateral security  agreements between nations.

If an agreement isn’t reached, Hayden said, “then we will  initiate planning for a post-2014 future in which there would be  no U.S. or NATO troop presence in Afghanistan.”
“That is not a future we are seeking, and we do not believe  that it is in Afghanistan’s interests,” Hayden added in a  statement also sent to the Journal. “The further this slips  into 2014, however, the more likely such an outcome is.”

Another outcome that is likely to spur commotion would involve  the expedited removal of the remaining tens of thousands of US  troops in Afghanistan. If Pres. Obama isn’t satisfied with the  10,000 troop figure, the Journal reported, and then he’d have to  purge his army from the country entirely during the next 11  months.

So far, though, that option seems the less likely of the two. The  Journal reported that the 10,000-troop proposal has found support  among members of both the US intelligence community and the  Department of State, who fear their operations would suffer  should the White House decide to send military personnel back  home immediately.

“To have an intelligence network, you have to have a  footprint, and to have a footprint, you have to have force  protection,” one senior official told that paper.

“The intelligence community has a vested interest and they’ve  been making a strong case privately for a military presence so  they can continue to do their job,” added another on  condition of anonymity. “They see Afghanistan as a place they  need to have eyes on.”

Another 5,000 US troops are expected to be sent home next month  regardless of what option the president opts for, but a surge of  more could soon follow if he isn’t satisfied with the 10,000  tally offered by the Pentagon. Those troops would all be expected  to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2015 when Mr. Obama’s second  presidential administration comes to a close.


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