No Exit From Afghanistan Until 2012: U.S. General

Team Infidel

Forum Spin Doctor
Ottawa Citizen
March 27, 2008
Pg. 8
ISAF commander says training Afghan police, army key to troop reductions
By Mike Blanchfield
KABUL--International soldiers will be needed in Afghanistan until at least 2012, but troop levels could start dropping by then, the commander of coalition forces said yesterday.
Gen. Dan McNeill offered that timeline in an interview with the Citizen, as he expressed optimism that as more Afghan soldiers and police officers are competently trained, it would be fair to begin debating the merits of reducing the number of international troops here.
“I would say, at the rate the Afghan National Army is going, if the police can catch up with that rate, maybe it wouldn’t take five years,” he said. “But again, all I do is make my best military recommendations and leave it to the policymakers.”
Gen. McNeill, the American four-star general who commands the 47,000 troops from 39 countries that comprise the International Security Assistance Force for Afghanistan, also made note of the skilled way Canada’s minority Conservative government and Liberal opposition crafted a compromise resolution that will allow Canadian troops to remain in Afghanistan until 2011.
Gen. McNeill pointed to the fact that Afghan Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak and his top soldier, Gen. Bishmullah Khan, have urged the North Atlantic Council, NATO’s governing body, as well as other alliance commanders to be patient with the training of Afghan security forces.
“In a couple of press interviews, both he (Mr. Wardak) and Gen. Bishmullah Khan thought that a fully capable Afghan National Army, probably you’re looking at late 2012 before that came around.
“Here’s what’s really important,” Gen. McNeill said: “As you see increasing Afghan national security force capacity, that not only includes the army, but the police as well, I think you can reasonably have debate and ask the question: ‘do we need the same size of international force here?’
“I think the answer to that is obvious: As the Afghan capacity increases, there probably is good reason that you cease to increase the international capacity and, at some point, you would actually be better served by beginning to decrease that.”
The training of an 80,000strong national army and a competent national police force of 82,000 is the key exit strategy for Canada and its allies.
The Canadian Forces — there are about 2,500 stationed in the volatile south — have made great gains in making the Kandahar region more secure over the last year, Gen. McNeill said, adding: “We should point out that they have a lot of help.”
Polish special forces and American troops outside of NATO command have also played a role, he added.
Gen. McNeill said he welcomes any show of solidarity that NATO leaders might offer at their summit next week in Bucharest.
The summit is being billed by the alliance as an opportunity to put some very public differences behind it and show resolve for the long-term reconstruction of Afghanistan.
Gen. McNeill said he has no concern that the internal political debates over the merits of the Afghan mission in countries such as Canada, the Netherlands and Germany are undermining the military effort on the ground.
Many observers have argued that those debates, including Canada’s, provide incentive to the Taliban to keep up the insurgency because they show a lack of resolve in coalition countries.
“I come from a democracy that’s several hundred years old, so we’re used to that kind of debate, to tell you the truth,” he said.
“Here’s the incontrovertible fact: There’s been a lot of debate, but the force is more than 10,000 stronger than it was when I first took command” one year ago, he said.