Gen. Allen: It’s Time Obama Commits To Staying in Afghanistan

An ANA soldier carries a 105 mm round while training on an M119 Howitzer

Combat camera Afghanistan by Staff Sgt. Teddy Wade

AA Font size + Print

An ANA soldier carries a 105 mm round while training on an M119 Howitzer

Former war commander Gen. John Allen says the successful vote in Afghanistan shows why the U.S. can’t abandon the country now. By Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

Now that this weekend’s seeming successful and fairly peaceful presidential vote is over, the Obama administration quickly should make a public vow to keep United States troops beyond the end of the year, a former top U.S. war commander said Sunday.

Ret. Marine Corps Gen. John Allen, who led U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan from July 2011 to February 2013 told Defense One that the vote presidential vote was “a great first step” for Afghanistan’s future, proof that the country deserves the support of the international community when the 12-year war is scheduled to end.

“Very shortly now the U.S. and the international community ought to be unambiguously committing ourselves to a post-2014 presence in this country,” Allen said, calling the vote “an enormous accomplishment by the Afghan people.”

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has refused to sign a bilateral security agreement that would allow U.S. and NATO forces to stay beyond the planned withdrawal, to help train Afghan soldiers and police and continue counterterrorism operations. All the candidates in Saturday’s election have vowed to sign the agreement, but a runoff could delay that up to several months.

In February, a frustrated President Barack Obama called Karzai to tell him the U.S. would begin planning a full withdrawal. But Allen said the election shows that the Afghan National Security Forces are ready to defeat the Taliban and provide security – with the help of additional outside forces.

“The violence wasn’t low because the Taliban stayed home. The violence was low because the ANSF stood up, upheld their responsibilities, fought like demons to keep the Taliban from interfering in this perhaps critical moment in the modern history of Afghanistan,” Allen said.

Allen said it’s uncertainty – among all sides, the Afghans, the Taliban and the international community – that threatens the future of Afghanistan the most.

(Related: After Afghan Election, Debate Over Post-2014 Troops Continues)

“The Afghan people had a real hunger for an American presence and now is the time that we need to get the [troop] number out, because in the absence of that announcement it creates hedging strategies, it creates uncertainty. And in uncertainty, people, institutions, countries will hedge and we need for people to come out of their hedging strategies and be able to commit themselves. And that will flow directly from a sense of certainty and that sense of certainty will come from an unambiguous U.S. and international commitment to the future of Afghanistan,” he said.

For those questioning the mission in Afghanistan, Allen said too often Americans forget that the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, were planned in the mountains along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

“There have been few occasions where the U.S. has been engaged in long-term deployments or long-term hostilities overseas that is more directly relatable to a specific event — which could happen again — than this conflict,” he said. 

And he points to Pakistan as another key reason to stay.

“Pakistani stability ought to be something that worries us every night before we go to bed because that country has the largest growing nuclear arsenal on the planet but they also have many different extremist influences which are growing in the country,” Allen said. “A stable Afghanistan is a major contributor ultimately to Pakistani stability.”

Allen said the plan for the war all along was to keep a residual force behind, after combat operations ended. “This idea of a post-2014 force wasn’t something we just thought of in the last couple of years, that was always a portion of the campaign,” he said.

“We have paid too great a price to deliver this country to the doorstep of a future that is credible for us to say ‘go home.’ We have paid too much. This isn’t about cutting our losses, this is about locking in the future of this country.”

Close [ x ] More from DefenseOne

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Software-Defined Networking

    So many demands are being placed on federal information technology networks, which must handle vast amounts of data, accommodate voice and video, and cope with a multitude of highly connected devices while keeping government information secure from cyber threats. This issue brief discusses the state of SDN in the federal government and the path forward.

  • Military Readiness: Ensuring Readiness with Analytic Insight

    To determine military readiness, decision makers in defense organizations must develop an understanding of complex inter-relationships among readiness variables. For example, how will an anticipated change in a readiness input really impact readiness at the unit level and, equally important, how will it impact readiness outside of the unit? Learn how to form a more sophisticated and accurate understanding of readiness and make decisions in a timely and cost-effective manner.

  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

  • A New Security Architecture for Federal Networks

    Federal government networks are under constant attack, and the number of those attacks is increasing. This issue brief discusses today's threats and a new model for the future.

  • Information Operations: Retaking the High Ground

    Today's threats are fluent in rapidly evolving areas of the Internet, especially social media. Learn how military organizations can secure an advantage in this developing arena.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.