Thursday, January 16, 2014

Biden Seeks Deep Cut in U.S. Afghan Force --- WASHINGTON—Vice President Joe Biden has resumed a push to withdraw virtually all U.S. troops from Afghanistan at year's end, arguing for a far-smaller presence than many military officers would like to see, said officials briefed on the discussions. -- The White House convened a meeting of top national-security officials on Thursday to discuss the war and the future of the U.S. troop presence. -- Mr. Biden has lost previous debates on Afghanistan, but his arguments for a smaller force, likely of 2,000 to 3,000 troops, have gained traction within an administration increasingly frustrated by Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Mr. Karzai has refused to sign a security agreement allowing American forces to remain in small numbers after the North Atlantic Treaty Organization mission there formally ends this year. -- Some U.S. defense officials, preferring a remaining post-2014 U.S. force of 9,000-12,000, are skeptical of the smaller troop presence Mr. Biden and others advocate. Such a force would be so limited that a full pullout would make more military sense, the officials said. - "We are coming to grips with the potential for zero," said a military official. -- A senior administration official said Mr. Biden hasn't advocated for any specific number of forces. -- "He has not rejected any specific troop level," the official said. "He has asked questions and listened carefully to presentations and he will make his recommendation at the appropriate time." --- The resumption of the administration debate and the push by Mr. Biden and his allies in the administration for a limited force concerns members of groups who advocate for continued U.S. engagement. They fear a debate focused on a small force would offer little appeal to the Afghan government, prompting Mr. Karzai to refuse to sign the security agreement and the Obama administration to withdraw all U.S. forces -- "Pulling the rug out from under Afghanistan really risks collapse," said Andrew Wilder, vice president of South and Central Asia programs at the United States Institute of Peace. "We're in the endgame with Karzai, hopefully, and we really risk blowing it by announcing a 'zero option' based on our frustrations with negotiating with a president who should soon be gone." --- Officials said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is supportive of the recommendations of his military leaders, including the belief that a force smaller than 9,000 would be ineffective. - More, Walll Street Journal, at:


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